By Angela Garrity
Financial Times reports that Philip Morris International (PMI) has partnered with Vice Media to promote vaping, in a campaign that is coming next month. This deal that has been struck between both companies is alarming health advocates.
PMI is slated to produce sponsored content endorsing e-cigarettes in their deal with PMI. The deal is costing the tobacco giant £5m.
The push towards a less harmful alternative to smoking comes at a time of global regulatory clampdown on cigarette advertising, following decades of tobacco companies underplaying the risks of smoking and past industry practices of targeting younger consumers in an attempt to hook them at an early age.
PMI, like other tobacco groups, have shifted their focus to non-combustible products as traditional smoking rates continue to decline. PMI is the largest cigarette company in the world by sales.
Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the PMI-Vice vaping campaign could be an early forerunner of more youth-focused marketing to come, particularly with the recent UK launch of US start-up JUUL. “We haven’t seen the intensity of marketing that the US has had yet,” he said. According to Vice, its audience is 18- to 34-year-olds but it is known to attract many younger consumers, too. It has been struggling in recent months as advertising revenues have dried up. In February, it announced that it would be cutting 250 staff as part of a “strategic restructure”.
The new Vice channel, on which the campaign is expected to run, will speak to the broad theme of “change” and “tackle some of the biggest issues facing the world in areas such as health, environment, energy and technology among many others”, according to a LinkedIn recruitment message.
This latest PMI initiative will be produced by a team of journalists recruited to work for a new online platform on Vice’s UK website.
The campaign is slated to launch just as US regulators crack down on the sale of vaping products to minors while in the UK, authorities do not believe youth vaping to be such a problem. A House of Commons report published in 2018 said that regular vaping among secondary school children was less than 1%.