Hong Kong—Philip Morris International is preparing to introduce in the Philippines a cutting-edge technology for smokers using heated tobacco products that have fewer health risks, pending the creation of regulatory measures for these products.
PMI Asia Ltd. director for regulatory strategy and engagement James Arnold said that while some markets had no regulation yet on these new tobacco products, consumers in these countries were ready to embrace the new technology.
“What we are doing is for those people who cannot and won’t quit smoking. Based on a study, there are millions of Filipinos who are still smoking and there more than a billion smokers across the world. Twenty years after, there will still be a billion smokers globally. What do we want to do with them? At least provide them with better alternatives,” he said.
Iqos, PMI’s first advanced heated tobacco product, is available in limited quantity in the Philippines. Despite the absence of laws for these products, a few people were using the product acquired from other countries or from the black market in Manila.
Iqos has a growing following in the Philippines despite the lack of regulatory measures that should be in place.
“What is the most important here is the minimum age law. We don’t want children dipping their hands into something that should be regulated,” Arnold said.
Quality and safety standards and health warning labels, though not as graphic as those seen on conventional or combustion cigarette packs, are also critical.
PMI said the governments of different markets, including the Philippines, should open communication focused on adult smokers.
Another measure that will help improve the regulatory scheme is the scientific substantiation of the product and regular monitoring and surveillance.
“Products that don’t burn should be regulated differently than cigarettes. This is totally a different category that should be regulated differently than cigarettes, although the same principles will apply,” Arnold said.
Within the PMI Science Hub in Hong Kong, four new smoking platforms were being developed, the most advanced of which is Iqos.
Iqos is an electronic cigarette gadget that uses heat to create an aerosol that smokers can inhale for their nicotine fix without the carcinogenic factor of burning or combustion. It is sold in 40 countries worldwide.
The Science Hub or Center in Hong Kong was the first formal and biggest research and development facility the company established with researches on smoking and cigarettes.
The ongoing switch of smokers from conventional cigarettes to heated tobacco products resulted in a 3.1-percent increase in net revenues for PMI to $29.6 billion in 2018.
The company said in an investor report that for 2019 to 2021, it was expecting at least 5 percent annual currency-neutral growth in terms of net revenue.
“We are in the cigarette business today and we anticipate to be in the cigarette business in the future. But that is not our ambition. Our ambition is to give smokers what they want, give them better alternatives. We don’t take that ambition lightly. We are seriously in transforming ourselves so that we are quick to develop a wide range of products from a company that lasted 150 years.
We’re committed to helping create that spot in the future,” said Arnold.