Newer tobacco products might be particularly likely to use social media as they emerge in the global market. Little is known about the official use of social media in marketing heated tobacco products (HTPs). This study examined Philip Morris International’s (PMI) social media marketing globally of its leading HTP, IQOS.
PMI IQOS country-specific official websites were accessed (N=59) in May to September 2022 and social media accounts listed were recorded. Accounts were then coded for their number of posts in the past month and year and for their number of subscribers. Posts on online accounts with at least one past-month post were categorised to describe the post’s function: instructional, general advertising, price promotions or event promotions.
Of the 59 country websites, 45 (76.3%) listed at least one social media account; of these, an average of 2.5 accounts (SD=0.8) were listed. Across websites, 111 accounts were identified: 42 Facebook, 23 YouTube, 21 Twitter, 19 Instagram, 2 Telegram, 1 LinkedIn, 1 KakaoTalk, 1 VK and 1 LINE. Across YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, accounts made 2550 past-year posts and had ~490 961 subscribers. Of the 165 past-month posts, 101 (60.1%) functioned as general advertising, 30 (17.9%) instructional, 29 (17.3%) event promotions and 8 (4.8%) price promotions.
Social media posts were used to engage consumers with advertising, event promotions, product use instructions and price promotions. The study provides evidence of the company-sponsored official marketing of an HTP via social media globally, underscoring the need for monitoring and tobacco control regulatory efforts in the digital arena.