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The new iQOS heat stick branded "Heets".

“It’s the heat sticks that contain tobacco, and there’s no problem that this product contains tobacco,” said Health ministry prosecutor Sally Carter whilst addressing the Wellington District Court. She pointed out that the issue came down to legal fine print. “The real problem is whether this product falls within the Smokefree [Environments] Act 1990,” she said.

The iQOS device, is a Heat not Burn (HnB) smokeless alternative to combustible cigarettes and works by heating tobacco leaves known as Heets or HeatSticks. These refills which look like short cigarettes, must be inserted into the device and are heated up once it is switched on.

A problem of classification

The Health Ministry acknowledged that this is an issue of classification, as iQOS cannot be ignited hence does not fall under the category of a smoking device.
Carter said that the fact that the device cannot be ignited is an issue “Significantly, because of the way the Act is structured there are issues whether in fact the product is a smoking issue, and a smoking product. The definition of ‘to smoke’ means that the product needs to be ignited,” she added.

Ironically, if the Ministry proves that the HnB product is for oral use (which would make it safer), rather than for smoking, the product will be deemed illegal and PMI could face a maximum penalty of $10,000. Philip Morris is defending the charges, arguing that HEETS is a smoking product, therefore it will be interesting to watch the outcome since the device is neither a smoking product nor one that is consumed orally.

Shouldn’t the focus be on health risks rather than on labels?

iQOS has now been successfully launched in over 30 countries, and Philip Morris claims that up to now approximately 4.7 million smokers have switched from regular cigarettes to the HnB product. A recent review by the independent Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) in the UK, analyzed two “heat-not-burn” tobacco products amongst which iQOS, and found them to be less risky than regular cigarettes.

Read Further: nzherald.co.nz

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