Factasia.org is a Hong Kong based organization, founded in 2013, which promotes next generation products, including e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, and campaigns for their use in tobacco harm reduction. It is registered as a company, Fact Asia Consultants Ltd, in Hong Kong.12
As of October 2020, Factasia´s website stated:
“factasia.org seeks to represent the rights of adults in Asia who choose to enjoy smoking or other related forms of consumption of nicotine. factasia.org aims to protect their interests and to provide independent and unbiased data on the issues surrounding smoking – and related issues – in Asia.” 3
According to the tobacco industry publication Tobacco Reporter, Factasia.org was formed to represent the rights and interests of smokers who choose to smoke or consume tobacco, and to provide data on the issues surrounding smoking in Asia.4
Factasia.org receives funding from Philip Morris International, as well as the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA) and other companies providing services to the tobacco industry, according to its website.5
However, Factasia.org states that it does not work for the tobacco industry. 4
Factasia.org conducts its activities under three main themes that it describes as: “consumer choice, rational debate and sensible regulation”.3 It states that “Factasia.org aims to communicate with consumers as well as politicians, legislators and appropriate law enforcement officials”.3 According to Tobacco Reporter, Factasia “aims to lobby on behalf of the millions of growers, distributors and retailers throughout the region whose livelihoods are under threat from bad legislation and excessive taxation” 4
Commissioned Surveys to Argue for Reduced Regulation
The organisation conducted several opinion surveys of smokers in Asia-Pacific markets through the polling company IPSOS. One survey conducted in 2015-2016 included responses from nine countries (Mecau, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, and New Zealand) and over 4,200 smokers.6 This survey evaluated awareness, use and perception towards e-cigarettes. A similar survey was conducted in Hong Kong in 2018 with 1,000 respondents.7 Results of these surveys were presented in global pro-vaping conferences and used to develop support for reduced regulations and restrictions on e-cigarettes.8
In 2015, Factasia.org held an E-cigarette Symposium with speakers from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). 9
Lobbied at COP8
Factasia has lobbied against the Conference of the Parties (COP) of WHO FCTC. Heneage Mitchell, cofounder and director of Factasia.org, was among the group who protested outside COP8 in Geneva in 2018, arguing that the WHO should accept harm reduction as a “basic human right” (Image 1).1011
Heneage Mitchell was present with Martin Cullip, a pro-tobacco blogger and Simon Clark, the Director of the tobacco industry front group Forest at a COP8 side event, hosted by the tobacco industry-funded, representing the Institute of Economic Affairs. The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) was also present, after being denied FCTC observer status. For more information see the page on INNCO.
Lobbied COP8 via Twitter
Researchers from the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG) analysed Twitter data to gain insights into activity of the tobacco industry and its allies, including Factasia.org, in the run up to COP8, and their attempts to influence the FCTC.1213
The researchers concluded that:
“The extensive activity by NGP advocates with links to organisations funded directly and indirectly by PMI … as well as a substantial online presence by PMI executives themselves, suggests a strategic approach by PMI to influence COP8 debates”.12.
For more details see International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO)
Factasia.org is a supporter of the “Smoke Free for Life” (SF4L) campaign, organised by Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).See below for details.1415
Relationship with the tobacco industry
According to Factasia.org’s website, Philip Morris International and Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), an e-cigarette trade association, are among its supporters.5
Other supporters listed on their website, as of October 2020, were are:5
- Axiom Select LLC – Service provider to tobacco industry from machinery to services which include “regulatory issues, product development, harm reduction, cost / project management and sourcing.”.516
- Cerulean – Provider of test and measuring equipment for the tobacco industry. As a provider, it has presented at several tobacco industry events as the Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum, World Tobacco Middle East, Tobacco Science Research Conference, among others. 17
- Moisttech – Provider of moister & measurement control products, that provides services to the tobacco industry.
- Primary Engineering (Thailand) Ltd – Provide service & maintenance for tobacco industry equipment
As stated on the Factasia.org website, its cofounder and director Heneage Mitchell has commentated on the tobacco industry across the Asia region for over 15 years.18 His LinkedIn profile states, he was the former managing editor/co-publisher at October Multimedia from 2009-2013 and managing editor of Lockwood Publications from 2002 –2009. 19 Lockwood publications was the publisher of industry publication Tobacco Asia.20.
John Boley, the other cofounder of Factasia.org was a speaker at the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in 2016 and 2017. GFN is an event organised by Knowledge-Action-Change (K-A-C) which is funded by PMI-funded Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.
The panel of speakers at the Factasia.org E-cigarette Symposium 2015 included; e-cigarette researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, representatives of TVECA and the Asian Vape Association (AVA), and Terry Barnes representing Institute of Economic Affairs(IEA) (see image 2) 3. The IEA is a think tank which has a history of collaboration with the tobacco industry.21
Heneage (‘H’) Mitchell and John Boley, are both founders and directors of the organisation.1922
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mitchell became Managing Director of factasia.org in October 2013, after working in journalism, publishing and other businesses, including writing on tobacco (see above for details). 19 He states that his specialities include public relations and campaign management.19 and in 2017.23 His presentation in 2016 was titled “Developing a united front for consumers to public health authorities in Asia-Pacific – challenges and opportunities” and, in 2017, “The lexicography of harm reduction”.24
Collaborating with third party organizations and funding their activities in order to reach out to decision makers is one of the most common tobacco industry tactics.(See Third Party Techniques) Factasia has not been the exception, as evidenced in the promotion of looser regulations for next generation products in Australia :
Lobbied Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
Regarding PMI´s IQOS, Factasia made a submission in June 2020, after the Australian medicines regulator, the TGA, made an interim decision refusing Philip Morris Ltd application to exempt its IQOS product from the Poison’s Schedule. Factasia´s submission argued that “It is unconscionable that Australia continues to ignore the evidence and is now seeking to further restrict access by adult smokers to these life-saving technologies by considering legislation to require a doctor’s prescription to purchase nicotine-containing vape products.” 25 Despite intense lobbying by PMI to allow the sale of IQOS, in August 2020, the Australian government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration rejected the sale of HTPs in Australia.2627.
Lobbied Australian parliament:
After lobbying with CAPHRA for fewer restrictions on e-cigarettes in Australia, in summer 2020,28 Factasia made a formal submission to the Australian Parliament on October 16, 2020, arguing that “The government has a unique opportunity to act for the good of its citizens by recognizing that harm reduced nicotine products save lives and benefit all Australian citizens by reducing the death and disease caused by smoking. Smokers need to be able to access the life-saving technology of harm reduced nicotine products. This should be a key part of Australia’s Tobacco Control policy”. 29 Furthermore, Factasia lobbied for next generation products to be legalized in Australia and regulated differently than tobacco products. 29
Factasia.org is associated with the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA)28 and supports its SF4L campaign.14 Heneage Mitchel was at the launch of SF4L, along with Peter Paul Dator, president of Vapers PH; Clarisse Virgino, the CAPHRA Philippine representative; and Nancy Loucas, executive director of CAPHRA (see image 3 below).3015
Tobacco Tactics Resources
Robertson, A. Joshi, T. Legg T, et al., Exploring the Twitter activity around the eighth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Tobacco Control Published Online First: 11 November 2020, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-055889
Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products, Tweetable Influence: The Tobacco Industry’s Attempt to Engage in COP8, STOP blog, 12 November 2020, available from: exposetobacco.org