After a decade of research, an investment exceeding $3 billion and hundreds of world-class scientists backing the research, PMI is making big strides towards a smoke-free future, starting with an innovative, science-driven new device called IQOS.
In recent years tobacco companies have spent billions in researching of the industry’s Holy Grail – alternatives to cigarettes that cause less harm, but that are still comparable to the traditional in ways that are important to current adult smokers that would otherwise continue smoking.
With PMI’s new IQOS innovation, a “smoke- less” cigarette alternative, it believes it has found the answer. This device uses an electronic heat source to heat tobacco at precisely controlled temperatures below combustion levels. It produces an aerosol, not smoke, that has on average less than 10% the amount of harmful chemicals found in ordinary cigarette smoke.
The IQOS is already on sale in over 30 markets around the world, and was launched in South Africa earlier this year.
“The idea of ‘heat-not-burn’ has been around for quite some time, but until now the technology was never advanced enough for it to be a real success,” says Marcelo Nico, CEO of Philip Morris South Africa. “Globally PMI has spearheaded the concept, making a no burn, smoke-free future a reality.”
“Designing a smoke-free future is an ambitious task, one we cannot achieve alone,” Nico explains. “All stakeholders in the tobacco industry have a role to play and we are encouraged by the growing number of experts, regulators and government bodies that are taking steps to support the role that science and innovation can have for public health.”
Globally the company’s vision is for all current adult smokers, who would otherwise continue smoking, to switch to their scientifically substantiated smoke- free products. PMI already produces over 32 billion HEETS (tobacco sticks), and hopes to reach 50 billion by 2018.
“We are more confident than ever that these products have the potential to fundamentally transform our cigarette business to potentially less harmful alternatives,” Nico says.
For instance, he adds, “Over 3.5 million smokers have already quit smoking cigarettes and switched to the new alternative, proving that designing a smoke-free future is a concrete possibility.
In South Africa alone, exactly 70% of smokers that have tried IQOS have fully converted to the system and are enjoying the benefits of this technology.” The tobacco technology battle is heating up, though, and some analysts believe that PMI is winning the race to produce heat-not-burn products.
“We are very happy to be the key catalyst for a reduced risk product category and will continue to innovate to ensure our vision becomes a true reality,” he says. PMI is preparing for the day when they will stop selling traditional cigarettes, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. “It has been a dramatic decision, but we will become far more than a leading cigarette company,” Nico explains.
“Why are we doing it? The answer is simple; we understand that millions of men and women who smoke cigarettes are looking for less harmful, yet satisfying alternatives to smoking, and we want to give them that choice.”
PMI has an inspiring approach to align itself to a more technologically innovative company, and just like any tech company, they are aware that the competition will come from unexpected sources.
“The category is going to allow for a lot of creativity and innovation, we will embrace this by developing the market, transition of our resources and through ongoing engagement with regulatory stakeholders,” Nico says.
The massive investment into research, product testing and change are proof that Big Tobacco is moving towards something greater. “More than ever, society expects us to act responsibly and we believe that one day the new technology will replace traditional cigarettes,” Nico says.