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New deception – PMI’s Bonds launched in the Philippines as HTP

28 November 2022

Philip Morris International has just announced it will launch a new brand of heated tobacco product (HTP) – Bonds – in the Philippines as a pilot market and further commercialize it in the remainder of 2022 and continue into 2023. PMI currently controls over 70% of the cigarette market in the Philippines and does not plan to end cigarette sales.

The Bonds brand is not entirely new. Bond Street is a cigarette brand (figure 1), originally created in London, which Philip Morris bought in the mid-1900s. A 2017 description of Bond by a tobacco distributor claimed, “The brand  “Bond” is also associated with the world-famous Agent 007, James.  

Over the last few decades, Philip Morris introduced Bond LightBond Super Lights and then shifted to Bond SilverBond Compact Silver, when governments started banning misleading descriptions under the WHO FCTC. It is well documented how Big Tobacco misled and continues to mislead smokers that light, mild, or low-tar cigarettes are “less harmful” through the use of pack colors such as white, silver and pale blue. 

Figure 1

Philip Morris USA brand

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Source: Cigarettespedia.com

2016: Bond in Kazakhstan with pictorial warning

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2022: PMI’s Bonds launched as HTP in the Philippines with no health warning

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Source: Tobacco reporter

When governments applied prominent pictorial warnings on packs and introduced plain packaging, it took away the glamor of the pack as a communication tool (Figure 1). Prominent health warnings on cigarette packs encourage smokers to quit. A-pack-a-day smoker will see warning labels more than 7,000 times in a year. This is why tobacco companies oppose pictorial warnings and standardized packaging of tobacco.

Although the deception by the tobacco industry that “light” and “mild” cigarettes are “safer” has been exposed, the industry has remained recalcitrant. Now Philip Morris is applying a similar deception by introducing HTPs as a “safer” tobacco product that emits 95% less harmful chemicals.

Since young people are its target, the company is using colors and flavors to attract smokers to this HTP brand. Bonds is sold in four colors (Figure 1) and is to be used with Blends which are flavoured tobacco sticks. Although pictorial warnings are required on tobacco products, the Philippines’ Graphic Health Warnings Act does not cover devices (Bonds) and news articles reporting on this brand show only the device without the warnings required for the heat sticks (Blends) giving it free publicity.

SEATCA’s recent publication, Tobacco Industry Duplicity: Recycling an Old Marketing Code exposes how Philip Morris is now reviving use of an old ineffective marketing code for its new products to pre-empt comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship as required under the WHO FCTC Article 13.  A comprehensive ban on marketing is necessary to protect public health as the tobacco industry continues to target youth to expand its market.

The tobacco industry prefers to hide behind its own codes which are completely useless to protect public health. According to SEATCA, “It is apparent that this marketing code is just another industry ploy to present itself as a good corporate citizen and to avoid stringent regulations as it has done in the past. This tobacco industry strategy has been identified and codified in the FCTC Article 5.3 Guidelines, reminding governments to reject voluntary codes or non-enforceable agreements.”

Electronic smoking devices (ESD) including HTPs are banned in about 40 countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Singapore and Thailand.

In countries where ESD are allowed, there must be a ban on their advertising and they must be sold with standardized packaging. Israel is the first country in the world to apply standardized packaging of e-cigarettes while Australia is mulling a similar move.

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