Philip Morris Suspends Social Media Campaign Using Young Influencers For IQOS Product

Philip Morris IQOS Device
A man tries Philip Morris' IQOS 3 device after its launching event in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

After a formal inquiry from a prominent news outlet about its use of young online influencers, Philip Morris voluntarily suspended its global social media marketing campaign that promoted its electronic smoking system. The inquiry from Reuters questioned the company's use of young influencers from around the globe, as young as 21-years of age, to promote its heat-not-burn tobacco product called IQOS.

Following the inquiry, Philipp Morris announced that its own marketing standards prohibited it from promoting its tobacco products with models or celebrities under the age of 25. The company, however, stated that it did not break any laws with the campaign, but it acknowledged that there may have been an oversight on its part. Philipp Morris further stated that they have now launched an internal investigation into the matter that will include a thorough look at the different posts and photos on social media.

One of the posts in question was a paid photo by a 21-year old Russian social media influencer named Alina Tapilina. The influencer also posted numerous seductive photos in luxurious settings highlighting the use of the company's IQOS device. Philipp Morris stated that the particular influencer is a legal age adult smoker, but given that she is under 25, the posts do break their own internal guidelines. The cigarette maker explained that they do set a high standard for their marketing efforts and the recent oversight is an apparent failure of that standard.

Devices such as Philipp Morris' IQOS heated tobacco system have recently been approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The approval came after a two-year review process, during which Philipp Morris assured the agency that it would not be marketing to a younger audience, specifically those under 25-years old. Following the revelation of its latest marketing campaign, the FDA stated that it would be keeping a close watch on the company's future marketing practices.

The research conducted by Reuters revealed that most of "ambassadors" that were paid by Philip Morris in countries such as Italy, Romania, Japan, and Switzerland, were very similar to Tapilina, in that they were young women shown to be living the high life.

The digital influencers often use the hashtags "IQOSambassafor" within their posts. The way the product is advertised seemed to indicate that they are a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes and that they are a trendy fashion accessory.

Philip Morris markets their IQOS device as a "healthier" alternative to cigarette smoking as it apparently contains less toxic compounds. However, there has yet to be a conclusive study on its long-term risks. There is currently still a very limited amount of information regarding its health effects given that it is relatively new to the market. 

© 2019 Business Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Sign Up for Newsletters and Alerts