Big tobacco companies yesterday moved to counter the hard line taken by a global tobacco control treaty, including its decision that new "vaping" products should face the same restrictions as cigarettes.
A meeting of state parties to the UN health agency's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) concluded last week with a number of anti-industry rulings, including increased efforts to curb industry influence and a call to crack down on new products.
Philip Morris International (PMI) and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) responded by releasing surveys suggesting the public would prefer a more industry-friendly approach.
PMI and other companies say such products are far less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, and insist they can help smokers unable to quit completely switch to "safer" alternatives.
These alternatives are key to halting a smoking epidemic that causes some seven million deaths annually, the industry says.
But the World Health Organisation's FCTC dismissed that argument, calling Saturday for the same bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship deals that apply to cigarettes.
FCTC chief Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva argued that the tobacco industry was disingenuously trying to suggest that promoting heated tobacco could be part "of a harm reduction strategy."
Anti-tobacco activists are meanwhile quick to point out that the companies' claims that their new products are safer are based only on industry-backed scientific studies.
"On multiple occasions, they have duped governments about the relative safety of their new products," Matthew Myers, head of Tobacco Free Kids, told AFP last week, pointing to past industry claims when filtered cigarettes and low-tar cigarettes first emerged.
The treaty parties decided to strengthen measures to keep tobacco company representatives and anyone with tobacco ties out of its meetings.