A spread of Philip Morris-sponsored articles, published in The Australian, on vaping may have breached Australian tobacco advertising laws, the Australian Council on Smoking and Health claims.
The chief executive of the public health group, Maurice Swanson, told Guardian Australia he would ask the Federal Department of Health whether the articles breached the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992.
“ACOSH believes these sponsored articles are advertising and clearly breach Australia’s national tobacco advertising and promotion laws,” Swanson told Guardian Australia.
“They are part of a broader PR campaign by Philip Morris to undermine Australia’s cautionary approach to the regulation of heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
“Philip Morris is simply diversifying its range of nicotine products to ensure continuing addiction and maintain its profitability,” he said.
The articles, framed as science features that include comparing initial scepticism towards vaping to that associated with cars, come as Philip Morris continues a global campaign to change tobacco restriction laws.
We’re preparing to replace cigarettes with #smokefree alternatives for good.
— Philip Morris International (@InsidePMI) November 17, 2020
Philip Morris argues in the sponsored articles that Australia’s strict laws mean “men and women who don’t quit cigarettes are being denied the opportunity to switch to better alternatives”.
Progressive journal Independent Australia was, however, far more outright in its critique of the sponsored articles, reporting: “You’ve probably guessed it. It’s an ad for e-cigarettes.”
State and territory laws reportedly make the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-juice illegal throughout Australia. It’s possession is also illegal everywhere, except South Australia.
While according to The Guardian, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act makes it illegal to publish anything that promotes tobacco products.
There is, however, an exemption for political discourse as long as publications “don’t promote smoking, a particular tobacco product or range of tobacco products”.
A spokesman for Philip Morris Australia told Guardian Australia the articles were within the laws of Australia. While a News Corp spokesman denied the articles represented advertising for tobacco and had no impact on its journalists’ reporting on smoking and vaping.
The News Corp spokesman told Guardian Australia: “This is, instead, a campaign presented by Philip Morris to create awareness about current government regulations.
“This campaign has zero influence on how News Corp Australia reports on this or any other issue.
“The Philip Morris campaign does not, and was never intended to, promote smoking, cigarettes or vaping. All content is clearly branded as being presented to consumers by Philip Morris, paid for by Philip Morris and is focused solely on effective regulation around e-cigarettes,” he said.
The reports come, as Guardian Australia notes, a month after The Australian reported on evidence that vaping was a ‘gateway’ to conventional smoking.
Featured image source: iStock/ljubaphoto
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