Philip Morris 'tobacco sticks' court prosecution postponed

An IQOS smokeless electronic device from Philip Morris.
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An IQOS smokeless electronic device from Philip Morris.

The heat has come on tobacco company Philip Morris for importing and selling "tobacco sticks".

The company is facing two charges brought by the Ministry of Health over the sticks, called Heets.

The charges were to be called in the Wellington District Court on Friday but at the last minute they were adjourned by agreement until September 7.

That date was for a case review hearing, an indication that the company would plead not guilty although it appeared no pleas were entered.

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The ministry said it considered Heets fell into a category of tobacco products for oral use, other than smoking, and so were banned under the Smoke-Free Environments Act.

Philip Morris' register-to-buy iQOS website
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Philip Morris' register-to-buy iQOS website

Heets were described as tobacco sticks heated in an electronic device, rather than being burned like a normal cigarette.

Through a code-protected invitation-only website, the company was marketing its IQOS smokeless electronic devices, which heated the sticks to release the nicotine.

In March the company said it was confident the way it was doing business was legal.

General manager for Philip Morris New Zealand, Jason Erickson, said they complied with all sections of the Smoke-Free Environments Act.

"We are currently making our IQOS device and Heets available to registered adult smokers on a website. If requested, we will provide a demonstration on how to use the IQOS device, which as the Ministry of Health has acknowledged, is a consumer electronics product."

The two charges the company faced had a maximum $10,000 penalty.

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