Tobacco giants plot launch of ‘safer’ cigarette brands

BAT and Philip Morris contest point-of-purchase ad ban in secret High Court submission

Tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have outlined plans to launch controversial “reduced risk” cigarettes in the UK in a written submission to the High Court challenging the Government’s ban on point-of-purchase (PoP) advertising.

The products are expected in the UK before the end of the year, according to Amanda Sandford, research director of anti-smoking campaigner ASH. The cigarettes are expected to have reduced carcinogen levels, and are likely to be launched as a variant of an existing brand. She adds: “Tobacco companies are not seriously engaged in creating a safer cigarette, they are just tinkering.”

Although the written submission is not available to the public, industry insiders say the two companies have raised objections to the PoP ban as it would prevent them from communicating the benefits of safer cigarette brands.

One source says: “The submission certainly raised eyebrows in the industry as it shows that both companies are close enough to a launch to begin thinking about how they will market the products.”

A Philip Morris spokeswoman refuses to discuss the High Court submission, although she confirms that the company is developing a “reduced risk cigarette”. She adds: “Development of a lower-risk cigarette is a primary concern for the company.”

The past few months have been busy in the cigarette market, as companies have rushed to beat the PoP ban in December. Gallaher is to reintroduce its value Dickens & Grant brand later this month (MW last week), in response to the launch of Basic by Philip Morris (MW July 21). Gallaher also recently launched Silk Cut Slims (MW April 1).

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