Phillip Morris Launches Less Harmful Cigarette, Could Phase Out Conventional Cigarettes Entirely

Wednesday 13th December 2017

Phillip Morris, one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world has launched a less harmful cigarette in the UK and claims it could be halting sales of its traditional tobacco products.

The product, named Iqos, heats tobacco to create a vapour rather than burning it as in a conventional cigarette, which they claim is likely reduce the harm to smokers, although trials on the technology are still being externally verified.

The technology is similar although not identical to e-cigarettes, which heat up a tobacco infused liquid to create a vapour. Iqos uses an electronic battery powered cigarette holder, which heats up a tobacco stick, which is smoked in a similar fashion to a more conventional cigarette and looks like a shorter cigarette. It generates less smoke and the smell of tobacco does not stick to clothes the same way a traditional cigarette does.

Phillip Morris International, the company behind Iqos, claim they have spent over £2.4 billion on the alternative to cigarettes, and are strongly positioning it as the potential future of the company with reported declines in cigarette sales.

The chief executive of Phillip Morris International, Andre Calantzopoulos, has stated his intention to work with governments to “phase out” the use of conventional cigarettes, going so far as to admit in an interview with the Today programme that the company is aware the products it makes harms consumers, to which the response is to commercialise less harmful alternatives.

Phillip Morris’ effort is not the first example of a so-called heat-not-burn cigarette, with the first example being the Premier from R.J Reynolds, released in 1988. Whilst it looked like a regular cigarette, it was very fiddly and complicated to actually smoke, and did require lighting. Customers who did manage to get it lit complained of an aftertaste that tasted of charcoal. It lasted a year before being pulled from shelves.

The aim for Phillip Morris is less philanthropy and more capturing the market. Younger people who use nicotine products are using e-cigarettes instead of conventional tobacco products, but traditional smokers are not as readily converted, with a conversion rate of just 20% between conventional cigarettes and e-cigs. A trial conducted in Japan of the new product claims that 70% of smokers after trying the newer product stick with it.

Given the addictive qualities of nicotine and the fact that the harm of said products is still there, there have been calls for tough regulation on heat-not-burn cigarettes, similar to traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The chief executive of ASH, Action on Smoking and Health, has stressed that caution is necessary about what the tobacco industry is getting up to, with smoking being the single biggest cause of preventable death on the planet. She stressed that for Phillip Morris to practice what they are claiming they would need to stop promoting smoking to new young smokers.

Much like e-cigarettes, the other alternative to smoking, there are still trials underway to determine the true safety of these products. Whilst the most effective way to stay safe is to avoid nicotine products at all, Phillip Morris’ admission and push for alternative products is regardless of motive a positive step to helping to reduce the number of preventable deaths caused by smoking.