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Philip Morris warned legal action over inclusion of heated tobacco products in smoking ban proposals

January 22, 2024

A picture taken on August 21, 2018 shows the research and development campus of Philip Morris International, in Neuchatel, western Switzerland. (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Philip Morris has threatened legal action against the government’s generational smoking ban bill over the inclusion of heated tobacco products in the bill.

The tobacco major had withdrawn its threat of legal action last week after the government made changes to its consultation ahead of any bill, The Telegraph reported.

“We notified the government of procedural flaws in the consultation process. They subsequently amended the consultation procedure to allow substantive responses and answered other enquiries. As such, we withdrew the claim on 15th January,” the paper quoted Philip Morris as saying in a statement.

“We agree with the government’s smoke-free 2030 ambition, however, we do not believe that reduced-risk smoke-free products—including heated tobacco—should be included alongside combustible cigarettes in any potential legislation. Including some smoke-free products in this legislation would confuse adult smokers looking to switch to a better alternative.”

According to the The Telegraph report, Philip Morris had sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Department of Health and Social Care, setting out its concerns.

The letter, was understood to claim the consultation was not “meaningful” because the outcome was pre-determined, and that the consultation period was not long enough.

The legal letter was also understood to be seeking to limit the scope of the legislation to exclude heated tobacco products.

Heated tobacco products use a high heat to release nicotine from tobacco leaves, which does not set it on fire or burn it, therefore avoiding creating smoke.

The increasingly popular alternative to conventional tobacco is often confused with e-cigarettes, which heat liquid that can contain nicotine but do not involve tobacco leaf.

Philip Morris embarked on a strategic shift six years ago to become a smoke-free company, and the group has injected more than $10 billion into new products, including IQOS the most popular and widely available heated tobacco product, which now account for a third of its $32 billion sales for the financial year 2022.