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Customs bureau seizes P20-M smuggled cigars

September 12, 2020

THE unrelenting anti-smuggling operation of the Bureau of Customs-10 (BOC-10) has resulted to the confiscation and destruction of P20.7 million worth of illegally imported cigarettes last Wednesday, September 9. Among those seized bore the brand names Union, Bravo, Famous, Farstar, Septwolves, YS, San Marino, Cannon. John Simon, BOC-10 district collector, said the contraband consisted of 2,150 reams or 188,824 of various brands. The cigarettes entered the port of Ozamiz in Ozamiz City and Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on two occasions, on August 25, 2020 and Sept. 1, 2020, Simon said. “We don’t want cigarettes that are illegal and are sold here in Northern Mindanao,” Simon said. The confiscated cigarettes were destroyed through a shredding machine at the Greenleaf 88 non-hazardous waste disposal facility in Barangay Bayabas, this city. Simon said the items were confiscated as the consignees failed to pay duties and taxes and in violation of Republic Act 10836 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. The BOC-10, however, has yet to identify the names of the consignees, but Simon said they will be facing charges once their identities are established. Oliver Valiente, chief of the BOC-10’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, the contraband came from China and neighboring Asian countries that entered through the Zamboanga Peninsula. According to the Department of Finance, consignees use a new smuggling scheme to sneak the illegal cigarettes into the country. Citing a report from BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III said P53 million-worth of cigarettes contained in two container vans that were recently confiscated in the port of Davao on July 12, 2020 came from Ningbo, China and was declared as tissue paper. When the cargo reached its final destination in the port of Davao, Guerrero said “the containers of smuggled cigarettes were not included in its inward foreign manifest despite other customs documents proving the existence of the shipment.”

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IQOS stores open in Metro Manila

September 4, 2020

Philip Morris International opened today its first four IQOS stores in Metro Manila offering Filipino adult smokers 21 years old and above a smoke-free alternative to cigarettes.   Located at the Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, SM Southmall in Las Piñas City, and Estancia Mall in Pasig City, the stores carry IQOS devices, heat sticks and accessories.  IQOS devices use a patented heat-control technology that precisely heats tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper, without the burning, to release a water-based aerosol – not smoke. “Opening the first IQOS stores in the Philippines is a significant step towards achieving our vision of a smoke-free future. PMFTC’s vision is to help adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes as quickly as possible and switch to a better alternative,” PMFTC’s President said Denis Gorkun, President PMFTC Inc., the local affiliate of PMI. “We see smoke-free products as an opportunity to reduce the smoking incidence in the Philippines for the benefit of the public health and society at large,” Gorkun said. There are an estimated 16 million smokers in the Philippines, and globally, despite strict tobacco control measures, the World Health Organization estimates that there will still be a billion smokers in 2025, the same level as today.  PMI invested more than USD$7 billion on research, development and production capabilities to create smoke-free products. Recently, the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of IQOS and heat sticks in the US with a reduced exposure claim, adding that its issuance of such order is appropriate for the promotion of public health.  IQOS is the first heated tobacco product to receive that exposure modification order in the US. “The US FDA decision shows that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product compared to cigarettes and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking,” said Gorkun. To ensure that only legal age consumers 21 years old and above will have access to the store, the e-commerce website and the tobacco products, Gorkun said, “We are implementing age verification and access restriction. Presentation of a valid government-issued ID is required before any product is handed over to the consumer.”  “The best thing a smoker can do is to quit cigarettes and nicotine products entirely. But the hard reality is there will be adults who would continue to smoke. For those who don’t choose to quit, we now have a product that does not burn tobacco,” PMFTC Communications Director Dave Gomez said. “Public health experts agree that burning or combustion is the main problem in people getting sick from smoking. Nicotine although not risk-free and is addictive, is not the main cause of smoking-related diseases. It’s the smoke,” Gomez added. PMFTC research showed that 60 percent of current Filipino adult smokers are willing to try smoke-free alternatives as long as they are made commercially available and meet quality production standards. Unlike cigarettes, IQOS does not burn tobacco and therefore produces no smoke and no ash. IQOS HeatControl™ Technology heats tobacco instead of burning it to deliver the true taste of real tobacco. Gorkun said when using IQOS, the aerosol dissipates more quickly than cigarette smoke. “As IQOS produces less lingering smell than cigarettes, it is less likely to bother people around you,” he added.  Last 24 April 2020, HEETS for use with the IQOS device, were made available to legal age users 21 years old and above through select tobacconists/retail stores such as FUMA, Lighters Galore, Green Puff and DJ Shop in Metro Manila.  Last August 7, 2020, the heat sticks were also made available in select 7/11 branches in Metro Manila. On June 5, 2020, the IQOS.COM website was launched where the IQOS devices, as well as the heat sticks and device accessories, were offered.  Committed to ensure that access to the IQOS devices and heat sticks is only limited to adult consumers 21 years old and above who wish to continue using tobacco products or other nicotine-containing products, the IQOS stores practice age verification and adhere to the Good Conversion Practices which is a global standard observed across PMI.

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Law enforcement agencies boost capacity on illicit trade prevention

August 28, 2020

The Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) initiated a series of forum in the regions to raise the level of awareness and information on the adverse impact of illicit trade of counterfeit products in the community and economy. The undertaking was in collaboration with various government law enforcement agencies. It also focused on ways to prevent and restrain the entry and proliferation of fake products that pose major economic threat against legitimate products. PTI stressed its commitment to its stakeholders towards regaining revenue loss, curbing the proliferation of illicit cigarettes, and promoting fair and sustainable business practices. A two-day capacity building and forum was recently conducted with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Davao City, attended by personnel belonging to customs intelligence, enforcement and security, assessment and examiners. Davao Port Collector Dino Austria said the discussion boosted the region’s customs intelligence in watching out for illicit products, especially on smuggled and fake cigarettes, citing that the illegal activities heightened even during the pandemic period.  Austria extended his full support in curbing illicit cigarettes, saying he will not allow the entry of spurious products that deprive the government of customs duties and taxes. He is looking forward to more partnership with the private sector particularly on intelligence and technical support in curtailing entry of illicit cigarettes. During the current lockdown period starting in March, there were a total of 38 law enforcement actions through raids, seizures, confiscation of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes, including the closure of illegal warehouses and factories and destruction of machines and equipment used by the unlawful traders. A similar event was held in Butuan City in collaboration with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) led by Caraga Regional Chief Choli Jun Caduyac. The CIDG chief stressed to his men the importance of safeguarding their jurisdiction and putting a stop to the rise of illicit cigarettes in the region as he cited the two illegal cigarette factories that were foiled by the team in 2018. The capacity-building initiative shall help participants which include intelligence operatives and provincial CIDG heads in gaining technical skills in the detection of illicit actions for successful enforcement and eventual filing of cases against the perpetrators in the courts. The CIDG team were provided an overview of the legal framework on enforcement actions, which include items and documents to watch out, red flags and inconsistencies that could be checked on incoming contrabands. In the Province of Cebu , a Basic Product Authentication training was conducted with the Lapu-lapu City Police Office attended by police officers of the different stations upon the instruction of Police Colonel Clarito C. Baja. The law enforcers were given an overview of the illicit cigarette trade and the prevalence of the unlawful business operations in the Visayas region. They were trained on how to spot a counterfeit cigarette product to boost their knowledge and confidence in their enforcement. PTI emphasizes that the lack of tax stamps and graphic health warnings is a sure sign that cigarette products are illicit.   Untaxed cigarettes should removed from the domestic market to protect much needed government revenues.  For the January-to-June period, excise taxes collected on tobacco products reached P61.5 billion.

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Heated tobacco products will benefit public health

August 23, 2020

THE US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for IQOS to be marketed as a modified risk tobacco product is aligned with the claims of a leading tobacco harm reduction expert that the introduction of heated tobacco products (HTPs) as better alternatives to conventional cigarette will see public health gains. Helen Redmond, adjunct professor at New York University-Silver School of Social Work, said the introduction of HTPs or heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco products will benefit public health. She noted that there is a widespread, mistaken notion that nicotine causes cancer and other health problems. “That is false,” the professor said. “The use of nicotine is no threat, because nicotine is not the problem. Combustible tobacco is … What causes health problems is lighting tobacco on fire. The combustion releases thousands of toxic chemicals.”  The US FDA, in its recent issuance, concluded that the commercialization of IQOS in the US, a heated tobacco product, developed by Philip Morris International, is “appropriate to promote the public health.” “The availability of IQOS is an incredibly important development for the millions of Americans who continue to smoke and who suffer almost half a million preventable deaths each year,” Redmond said. It has been known for decades that tar, and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke, causes the death and disease associated with smoking, and not nicotine.  HTPs are smoke-free devices that heat, instead of burn specially-designed tobacco units to release a flavorful nicotine-containing tobacco vapor. The most popular HTP brand today is IQOS—an electronic device that heats tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol.   “Several tobacco companies have developed HNB products like IQOS from Philip Morris and Glo Pro and Glo Nano from British American Tobacco. The technology is constantly evolving and becoming more user-friendly,” Redmond said. A recent study by Dutch researchers entitled, “A Method for Comparing the Impact on Carcinogenicity of Tobacco Products: A Case Study on Heated Tobacco Versus Cigarettes” assessed eight carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) to understand the likely health impact on individuals who switch to IQOS, compared to those who continue smoking. The researchers concluded that while not risk-free IQOS is associated with 10 to 25 times lower exposure to these carcinogens, and that this could translate into a substantially improved risk profile. The study was published on May 1, 2020 in the monthly peer-reviewed academic journal Risk Analysis. Smoke-free nicotine products include electronic cigarettes or vapes and Swedish snus. Public Health England consistently conclude in its annual reviews of all available evidence that E-cigarettes are around 95-percent less harmful than smoking.   Redmond also noted that e-cigarettes and HNB proved effective in making smokers switch since they offer the same pleasure, rituals and relaxation associated with smoking. The UK's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) concluded in its February 2019 clinical trials that e-cigarette was twice as effective as nicotine replacement treatments such as patches and gum in helping smokers quit. “E-cigarettes and HNB products make nicotine consumption much safer. In that, they are similar to patches or gums. The crucial difference is they look and feel like cigarettes, replicating the rituals and the enjoyment of smoking for people who switch from combustible tobacco—and therefore reducing the risk of relapse,” said Redmond. Redmond cited the case of Japan where nearly a third of smokers have already switched to HNBs. “HNB products have been available in Japan since 2014. The result—cigarette sales in the country have plummeted, outstripping anything abstinence-only messages have achieved” she said.

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Philip Morris’ electrically heated tobacco system gets US-FDA nod

July 9, 2020

THE U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the marketing of IQOS, Philip Morris International’s (PMI) electrically heated tobacco system, as a modified risk tobacco product (MRTP).  In doing so, the US FDA found that an IQOS exposure modification order is appropriate to promote the public health.  The decision demonstrates that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking.  IQOS is the first and only electronic nicotine product to be granted marketing orders through the FDA’s MRTP process.  “The FDA’s decision is a historic public health milestone. Many of the tens of millions of American men and women who smoke today will quit—but many won’t. Today’s decision makes it possible to inform these adults that switching completely to IQOS is a better choice than continuing to smoke, “André Calantzopoulos, PMI’s Chief Executive Officer, said.  “IQOS is a fundamentally different product than combustible cigarettes and must be regulated differently, as the FDA has recognized. Now—more than ever—there is an urgent need for a fundamentally different conversation on a cooperative approach to achieve a smoke-free future. The FDA’s decision provides an important example of how governments and public health organizations can regulate smoke-free alternatives to differentiate them from cigarettes in order to promote the public health,” Calantzopoulos added. The FDA authorized the marketing of IQOS with the following information:  1. The IQOS System heats tobacco but does not burn it  2. This significantly reduces the production of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals  3. Scientific studies have shown that switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.  The agency concluded that the available scientific evidence demonstrates that IQOS is expected to benefit the health of the population as a whole, taking into account both users of tobacco products and persons who do not currently use tobacco products  The FDA’s decision further builds on the emerging independent international scientific consensus that IQOS is a better choice than continuing to smoke, and follows the FDA’s April 2019 decision authorizing the commercialization of IQOS in the U.S.  The FDA’s decision provides an important example of how governments and public health organizations can regulate smoke-free alternatives to differentiate them from cigarettes in order to protect and promote the public health  This decision follows a review of the extensive scientific evidence package PMI submitted to the FDA in December 2016 to support its MRTP applications.  The PMI CEO further said “We are excited that this important decision will help guide the choices of adult smokers in the U.S. The best choice for health is to never start smoking or to quit altogether. For those who don’t quit, the best thing they can do is switch to a scientifically substantiated smoke-free product. As of March 31, 2020, PMI estimates that approximately 10.6 million adult smokers around the world have already stopped smoking and switched to IQOS. We believe that this decision can help to further accelerate the transition of U.S. adults away from cigarettes. We, along with our licensee Altria, are committed to guarding against unintended use and fully support FDA’s focus on protecting youth.” “Today’s decision is a result of our ongoing commitment to put science at the forefront as we continue on our quest to replace cigarettes with smoke-free alternatives as quickly as possible. We look forward to working with the FDA to provide any additional information they may require in order to market IQOS with reduced risk claims. Harnessing innovations like IQOS to dramatically speed-up the decline in cigarette smoking is the opportunity of this century. Comprehensive, science-based regulation can help to rapidly shift adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking to better options, while simultaneously guarding against unintended consequences,” the PMI executive stressed. The MRTP marketing orders were issued pursuant to a 2009 law that empowers FDA to regulate tobacco products, including through oversight of innovative tobacco products.  PMI submitted MRTP applications for the IQOS device and three HeatStick variants: Marlboro HeatSticks, Marlboro Smooth Menthol HeatSticks, and Marlboro Fresh Menthol HeatSticks.  On April 30, 2019, the FDA authorized IQOS for sale in the U.S. through issuance of premarket tobacco authorization marketing orders that deemed the marketing of the product appropriate for the protection of public health.  On March 30, 2020, PMI submitted a supplemental premarket tobacco product application for the IQOS 3 tobacco heating device with the FDA.

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PMI releases first Integrated Report on performance and headways in its smoke-free future vision

July 6, 2020

Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) has published its first Integrated Report, a comprehensive overview of the company’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance and its progress toward delivering a smoke-free future—including the company’s ambition to switch more than 40 million adult smokers to its smoke-free products by 2025.  PMI said its Integrated Report 2019 demonstrates the role of the organization's strategy, governance, and performance in the creation of value over the short, medium, and long terms. The report further shows PMI’s approach and important progress in various ESG areas, while setting new and ambitious targets for 2025 that complement the company’s prior aspirations.  “Clarity of purpose is essential for the internal alignment of any company. Since we announced our smoke-free commitment in 2016, we have made enormous progress in terms of organizational capabilities, the integration of sustainability into every aspect of our transformation, and our business,” said André Calantzopoulos, PMI Chief Executive Officer. “PMI’s Statement of Purpose reaffirms our commitment to deliver a smoke-free future for the benefit of people who would otherwise continue to smoke and, hence, to global public health. It is clear to all of us at PMI that the biggest positive impact our company can have on society is to replace cigarettes with less harmful alternatives; this is at the very core of our corporate strategy and sits atop our sustainability priorities while we are progressing well on all others,” Calantzopoulos added.  The report cited PMI’s Philippine affiliate, PMFTC Inc., for its strong commitment to the development and growth of local communities. In particular, the company’s corporate social responsibility program Embrace, which involves charitable giving, social contributions and community investments that focused on access to education, women empowerment, economic opportunity, and most especially disaster preparedness and relief efforts. “As a leader in the tobacco industry and a top taxpayer in the Philippines, PMFTC has a responsible role to play in spurring economic development, empowering communities and sustaining our environment,” PMFTC President Denis Gorkun said. “We are proud of our company’s caring and giving culture. We are equally proud of our employees who champion the values of social responsibility as can be most recently seen in our societal response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gorkun added. In the report, PMFTC was cited as being in the forefront in providing relief assistance during disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and floods. More than 25,000 individuals received help in the past earthquake incidences in Batanes and Mindanao; and another 7,384 families benefited from relief items during the Taal volcano eruption in January this year. In these community efforts, “PMFTC employees were at the core of relief operations.” mentioning the company employees “spirit of volunteerism and compassion for the community.”   On top of helping communities, PMFTC has placed the safety and protection of its own employees a priority. Some 150 displaced employees were provided immediate assistance in the recent Taal volcano eruption. The Integrated Report 2019 also demonstrates how PMI is focusing its resources on developing, scientifically substantiating, and responsibly commercializing smoke-free products that are a better choice than continued smoking, with the aim of completely replacing cigarettes as soon as possible. The company believes that, with the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries.  It also highlights the company’s most material sustainability topics, including the health impacts of the company’s products, an aspect often not captured by external ESG assessments.  The report focuses on this key area, and describes how the company is working to reduce the harm caused by tobacco use by replacing combustible products with scientifically substantiated reduced-risk alternatives.  From the previous sustainability reporting, PMI’s evolution to integrated reporting helps investors make the connection between the product-focused sustainability initiatives, which form the core of the ESG strategy, and the financial performance over time. The report also enables the company’s stakeholders to better evaluate the company’s progress in achieving its purpose. PMI’s Statement of Purpose, adopted by the company’s Board of Directors earlier this year and published in its 2020 proxy statement, is also available in the Integrated Report.

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