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iQos was launched at a highly publicised event at an upmarket waterfront venue in Auckland last December. The device works by heating a special tobacco stick in a battery powered holder, hence no combustion takes place. Only last week, the big tobacco company announced that 1 million smokers from all over the world had already converted to using iQos.

An article published earlier today on on The Otago Daily Times, pointed out that at the time of the launch, the ministry had mentioned that it was in discussions with Philip Morris, but failed to mention that it was illegal.

”In our view, Heets products are prohibited for sale in New Zealand under the Smoke-free Environments Act.” New Zealand's Health Ministry

The ministry has since released a statement saying that while the outside holder s perfectly legal, the refill sticks called Heets are not. ”In our view, Heets products are prohibited for sale in New Zealand under the Smoke-free Environments Act.” Chief legal adviser Phil Knipe said, that the matter is still under investigation.

Philip Morris says its committed to smoke-free future

A spokesperson for Philip Morris in New Zealand, said that the company is confident to have complied with the Smoke-Free Environments Act. ”As previously stated, the section of the law referenced by the Ministry was put in place in the 1990s to address chewing tobacco and has nothing to do with heated tobacco or e-cigarettes,” he said.

He added that these products were part of the tobacco company’s ”commitment to designing a smoke-free future and to lead a full-scale effort to sell smoke-free products that will ultimately replace cigarettes”.