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Tobacco giant halts marketing blitz after product was pitched by 21-year-old model – younger than it allows – National

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Tobacco giant halts marketing blitz after product was pitched by 21 year old model – younger than it allows National

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Cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc has suspended a global social media marketing campaign in response to Reuters inquiries into the company’s use of young online personalities to sell its new “heated tobacco” device, including a 21-year-old woman in Russia.

The company’s internal “marketing standards” prohibit it from promoting tobacco products with youth-oriented celebrities or “models who are or appear to be under the age of 25.”

WATCH: Oct. 4, 2018 — Ontario heading in the wrong direction when it comes to vaping and teens





The company told Reuters of the decision late Friday, saying it had launched an internal investigation into marketing posts and photographs that Reuters sent to the company for comment earlier this week.

They included a paid post plugging the tobacco product by social media “influencer” Alina Tapilina in Moscow – who listed her age as 21 on Instagram – alongside often seductive photos of herself drinking wine, swimming and posing with little clothing in luxurious settings.

“We have taken the decision to suspend all of our product-related digital influencer actions globally,” the company told Reuters.

“Whilst the influencer in question is a legal age adult smoker, she is under 25 and our guidance called for influencers to be 25+ years of age. This was a clear breach of that guidance.”

“No laws were broken,” the company told Reuters. “However, we set high standards for ourselves and these facts do not excuse our failure to meet those standards in this instance.”

The company added: “We were deeply disappointed to discover this breach and are grateful that it was brought to our attention.”

READ MORE: How the vaping industry hooked a new generation of teens to nicotine

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month decided it would allow sales of the IQOS device in the United States after a two-year review process in which Philip Morris repeatedly assured the regulator that it would warn young people away from the product.

The FDA declined to comment Friday evening on Philip Morris’s decision to suspend the marketing campaign. The agency earlier said it would “keep a close watch on … how the company is marketing its products.”

While most of the social media influencers hired by Philip Morris overseas did not list their ages on Instagram, a Reuters review of the firm’s social media marketing of IQOS in Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Romania shows that Tapilina’s online persona was typical of what the company called its social media “ambassadors” for the device – rail-thin young women who revel in the high life.

WATCH: May 4, 2017 — NB Lung Association warns parents not to vape around kids, especially in cars





The company did not directly respond to additional questions Friday night regarding the intended audience for its digital influencer campaigns.

Many of the messages contained the hashtag “#IQOSambassador,” tying them into a network of social media influencers that the international tobacco giant has relied on to brand the IQOS as a safer alternative to cigarettes and a sexy fashion accessory.

READ MORE: Health Canada failing to address dangers of growing vaping ‘epidemic’ — cancer society

“I finally have the new IQOS 3, and I can confidently say yes to change … the level of harmful substances is on average about 90 percent lower than in smoke,” Tapilina wrote in an April post. “You haven’t yet switched to IQOS?”

One Romanian IQOS marketer is 25 years old, according to a separate actress biography, but did not list her age on Instagram. Tapilina and nine other IQOS marketers did not respond to requests for comment.

Philip Morris, in its statement to Reuters, said its suspension of the social marketing campaign is “concrete proof” of its “conviction to achieve a smoke-free world through socially responsible practices.”

Matthew Myers, president of The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, had a different take upon hearing of the suspension Friday night. The advocacy group collected some of the IQOS marketing images reviewed by Reuters.

Philip Morris, he said, “is changing their behavior only when caught red-handed.”

The company, Myers said, has historically been “the single most successful across the globe in making cigarettes fashionable to young people.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Over the past year, Philip Morris has increasingly publicized its “mission” to prevent young people from using tobacco products. Last month, it issued a release calling on “all tobacco and e-cigarette companies to do their part to guard against youth nicotine use.”

“Let me be clear: We at Philip Morris International do not, and will not, market or sell our products to youth,” CEO André Calantzopoulos said during a speech in Boston earlier this month. “For Philip Morris International, age matters.”

When Philip Morris submitted marketing plans with an FDA application for IQOS in 2017, its sample advertisements featured models appearing at least a decade older and wearing modest, professional clothes.

WATCH: Feb. 27 — Health organizations call for stricter rules on vaping





That application, which is still pending before the FDA, seeks approval to market the IQOS as less harmful than smoking and outlines company plans to ensure it doesn’t market the device to “non-intended audiences.” The device heats up but does not burn packages of ground-up tobacco, which resemble small cigarettes, to create a nicotine-filled aerosol.

In Japan, the intended audience for IQOS marketing includes the Instagram followers of Ayame Tachibana, a 27-year-old DJ and model. In one post, she shows off a Valentine’s Day message for the IQOS device, lovingly scrawled with multicolored pens.

“Happy Valentine IQOS. Love you sooo much!” reads the Instagram post from February.

Alina Eremia, a Romanian actress and singer, holds a gold-colored IQOS in front of a Christmas tree.

“My list of resolutions contains 95% fewer moments without a smile,” says Eremia, who is 25 according to her actress biography on multiple movie and celebrity information websites.

Philip Morris says the IQOS – an acronym for “I quit ordinary smoking” – contains up to 95 percent fewer toxic compounds than cigarettes.

READ MORE: Health Canada moving to restrict vape advertisements to youth

Vlad Parvulescu, a manager for Eremia, confirmed she had been hired to promote IQOS and said she had been contacted by a Romanian public relations agency. He did not respond to additional questions about the financial arrangement.

Marketing deals between companies and social media influencers vary widely, according to industry experts. But typically a company will work through third-party public relations or advertising firms that have relationships with online personalities. Compensation typically ranges from $20 to $25,000 or more for each post.

Corporations have become increasingly sophisticated in how they approach their social media campaigns in the past two years, said Joe Gagliese, co-founder of Viral Nation, a marketing and talent agency that works with influencers.

WATCH: Nov. 20, 2018 — Health advocates present ‘harmful’ lifestyle ads on vaping products





He once had to explain the basic concept of an “influencer” in pitch meetings. Now, companies approach him with “tailor-made decision briefs saying, ‘this is exactly what we want.’”

Reuters reviewed dozens of social media posts featuring the IQOS device. Many included hashtags such as #IQOSAmbassador, #paidad, and #notriskfree, indicating that they are IQOS marketing posts.

Many of the Instagram influencers featuring the products had tens of thousands of followers, and a few had more than a million.

Viral campaigns, blurred lines

Devices such as IQOS and Juul hold potential as a way for cigarette smokers to transition to less harmful nicotine products, but some public health advocates worry the sleek new devices are addicting young people who would have never smoked cigarettes. Among traditional cigarette smokers, 90 percent start smoking before the age of 18, according to federal data.

Philip Morris said there have been “no reports” of “worrisome levels” of unintended use of IQOS.

As part of the FDA review process, Philip Morris pledged to market only to adult cigarette smokers once it begins selling IQOS this summer through a partnership with Altria Group Inc, which sells Marlboro cigarettes in the U.S. IQOS delivers about the same level of nicotine as a traditional cigarette.

Altria did not respond to requests for comment.

READ MORE: Parents, vaping near children is just as dangerous as smoking — study

Social media marketing has become a flashpoint in the debate over regulation of tobacco products, particularly the newest generation of products such as the wildly popular Juul e-cigarettes.

Some of Juul’s early social media and YouTube marketing included images of attractive young people, particularly at a 2015 product launch party. Twitter images from that time on Juul’s official account featured sensual images of a young woman breathing out Juul vapor in a group, next to the slogan, “Share a #Juulmoment.”

Those early campaigns sparked an explosion of video and photo posts from young people showing themselves using the product at school or with friends, often under the hashtags #doit4juul or #juullife. Juul Labs Inc has since said it stopped using social media influencers and requires anyone in its ads to be a former cigarette smoker older than 35.

WATCH: Oct. 3, 2018 — Rising health concerns as more teens use e-cigarettes





Juul Labs Inc said in a statement it recognizes that “some of our earliest marketing initiatives did not fully reflect the goal of our company,” which it describes as helping cigarette smokers transition to its products.

“As a young company, we learned from our experiences and instituted changes to help ensure that we are only reaching current adult smokers,” the company said.

Conditional approval

U.S. laws governing tobacco advertising – which is banned on radio and television – were drawn up long before social media and digital advertising became a dominant force in consumer marketing.

Although no current state or federal law restricts tobacco advertising on the Internet – including for e-cigarettes and devices such as IQOS – the FDA can use its authority over new devices to assert sweeping control over a company’s marketing.

As a condition for allowing the device to be sold, the FDA is requiring Philip Morris to provide detailed analyzes of the age ranges of consumers it reaches through digital advertising. Philip Morris is also required to submit any new advertising campaigns, including digital and social media efforts, to the FDA at least 30 days before it plans to launch them.

Any paid influencers promoting the product also must disclose “any relationships between you and entities that create labeling for, advertise, market, and/or promote the products, on your behalf, or at your direction.”

Those rules aim to restrict youth access to tobacco marketing, the FDA said in a statement, “especially in shared digital properties such as social media sites.”



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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FOREIGN NEWS

Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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FOREIGN NEWS

Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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