Tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) has launched the Hold my Light campaign, in a move it says is an important next step in its aim to ultimately stop selling cigarettes.

The campaign launched with a four-page wraparound in the Daily Mirror, as well as a campaign video showing a young woman handing her lighter over to her friends, who are supporting her attempt to quit smoking. Nearly all forms of advertising of tobacco are banned in the UK.

The campaign suggested four ways smokers can give up, including switching either to vaping or to heated tobacco products – an example of these being the IQOS device, produced and marketed by Philip Morris.

While e-cigarettes have been independently determined to be substantially safer than smoked tobacco, there is no equivalent independent evidence base on the relative risk of heated tobacco.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “UK smoking rates have been on the decline for years and show no sign of stopping, so it's no wonder industry has to get inventive with its campaigns – but this latest messaging from Philip Morris stretches credulity. If tobacco companies want to stop selling cigarettes, they should stop making them. Their claims of ‘commitment to a smoke-free future’ might be more believable were they not continuing to aggressively advertise Marlboro across the developing world, where tobacco regulation is regrettably far laxer than in the UK.”