In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, free deliveries are made to this device, either to get to know it for the first time or to purchase supplies, known as Heets or tobacco units.

By Lilia Saúl Rodríguez / OCCRP

The IQOS device is tax-free and remains on the Mexican market despite being illegal, thanks to at least three shelters that allow Philip Morris to sell his heated tobacco product. AND in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Free home deliveries are made, either to get to know it for the first time or to purchase supplies, known as Heets or tobacco units.

Yet without being a stapleIQOS managed to insert itself in the only stores that were not closed during the pandemic: the OXXO, 7-Eleven and Sanborns stores.

The government of mexico has not imposed any tax on the IQOS product, because it works illegally, following the decree published on February 19, 2020.

Article 16, section VI of the General Law for Tobacco Control is very clear: it prohibits marketing, selling, distributing, exhibiting, promoting or producing any object other than a tobacco product, that contains any of the elements of the brand or any type of design or audio signal that identifies it with a tobacco product.

Advertising

Advertising in traditional media prohibited, PMI has used social media to drive IQOS during the Covid-19 pandemic, posting ‘how to clean your IQOS’ videos on YouTube and showing photos of elegant women on Instagram with the phrase: “Take care, you are important to us.”

Although tobacco companies continue to manufacture cigarettes and also continue to pay special taxes, for Gady Zabicky Sirot, Director of the National Commission against Addictions (Conadic), tobacco companies such as Philip Morris, try to sell the idea that their heated tobacco is less harmful. However, the same official believes that the idea of ​​believing that it is good to collect that amount of taxes should be put aside, since it is more expensive for the health sector to care for patients due to smoking.

Tobacco companies pay approximately 41 billion pesos in special taxes every year in MexicoBut the cost of treating people with respiratory diseases such as COPD is 75 billion pesos a year, Zabicky said.

Use the pandemic

In Mexico, PMI still sells its products in stores that remained open during the pandemic shutdown, despite government attempts to stop imports of heated tobacco devices.

Weeks before Mexico began its own quarantine, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued a decree on February 19 that prohibits imports of heated tobacco products, including IQOS and the tobacco units better known as Heets.

“This law already prohibited marketing of everything that seemed [ser] or was consumed as a cigarette ”, explained Justino Regalado Pineda, Deputy Director of Lung Health Care of the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases.

“What this decree does is that before, imports were not prohibited and there was a gap in the law … Now every device you find today, in any store or boutique, It is illegal“Regalado Pineda explained.

But neither the law nor the blockade have prevented IQOS from selling in Mexico .

Philip Morris It started selling IQOS products between September and October 2019, after defying the laws prohibiting these devices. When the president issued the decree in February, the company filed an amparo remedy, a legal figure to protect individual rights against government violations.

A few days after the Decree was issued, Philip Morris decided to present a shelter against this, but something happened that the transnational stopped the legal defense, because the lawyer representing them “forgot” to sign the documentation, so it was scrapped.

Either way, with or without a decree, to this day, IQOS continues for sale.

Mexico in the global context

Although it was one of the first countries that promoted the signing of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Mexico lags behind on the subject, since it has not managed to sign the Protocol, which is the regulatory framework that governs it.

In separate interviews, Luz Myriam Reynales, from the National Institute of Public Health (INSP) and Marcela Madrazo, Director of the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) affirmed that due to the change of government and the bureaucracy that the signing of a pact of this nature, The action has not been completed.

However, with the decree issued, a signal is sent that at least looking to stop import and export of any substance related to the use of these products.

After this decree, according to the same interviewees, it is expected that in Mexico the number of use and consumption of these products.

However, the reality is different. Before the Coronavirus pandemic started in Mexico two IQOS stores already existed in two of the most exclusive areas of Mexico City: in the shopping centers of Santa Fe and Polanco.

Further, IQOS is promoted through parties, events attended by youtubers and famous artists as well as through a telemarketing service or call center, which allows the user to “live the experience” of IQOS.

The case of judicial litigation reached the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (the highest judicial instance in Mexico) and despite the fact that the Minister of the Court who would present the case (Laynez Potisek) was going to declare in favor of the companies covered (among them the Sanborns chain of stores, owned by Carlos Slim, the most powerful businessman in Mexico), the Ministry of Health and several of the government areas in charge of the tobacco issue supported the decree issued by the Chief Executive and the discussion was postponed.

Regarding the pending reforms to regulate, prohibit or modify the state of the tobacco law in Mexico, the legislators They plan to modify the laws until after August 2020, as the discussions were postponed due to the pandemic.

The bureaucratic tangle that surrounds Mexico around the signing of the Protocol, is that it must be the same as any International Treaty. It must, therefore, be approved by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and then be sent for final approval to the Congress of the Union (Chamber of Deputies and Chamber of Senators).

In order for this to happen, the Ministry of Foreign Relations calls several meetings with the areas involved, such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Economy, the Federal Commission for Health Risks and the Ministry of Finance. This to see the economic impact and the impact on health in relation to these new products.

In fact, Madrazo assured that in the past six years one of the agencies with which he was confronted and prevented the signing of this treaty was the Ministry of Economy to defend the economic interests of tobacco companies.
Officials recognize that the law in Mexico is constantly violated by selling these products in the country and that is why these tobacco companies have been protected, so as not to have problems in continuing to sell, while the laws are resolved or modified.

At present IQOS has a presence in thirty countries in the European Union and on the American continent it is present in Canada, the United States, Colombia, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.

Existing regulation

– Mexico I do not sign the protocol of the FCTC (Framework Convention for Tobacco Control)

-February 19, 2020, the country banned the import of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTP) into the country.

– The Federal Commission against Health Risks (Cofepris), the National Commission against Addictions (Conadic) and the Ministry of Health issued a statement that the Mexican health authorities do not endorse electronic cigarettes or HTPs as low-risk alternatives to smoking or as an effective way to quit smoking.

– In August 2020, the country should modify the legislation on tobacco to apply the FCTC regulation and include tobacco products for heat in the same category with traditional cigarettes.

On October 24, 2019 IQOS Mexico announced itself in Mexico, through its social networks with a “We are already here.”

IQOS enters the Mexican market

Since 2016 and 2017, IQOS sought to enter the Mexican market. First with the holders of Cofepris Mikel Arreola and then with Julio Sánchez and Tépoz, with whom meetings were held with representatives of Philip Morris, to present the devices to them.

Among them were Andrzej Dabrowski, General Director of PMI and Gonzalo Salafranca, Director of Corporate Affairs PMI. There was also Mony de Swaan, lobbyist of the CENTRO company and who promoted these meetings during that time. (Javier Zúñiga, from Salud Justa Mx).