By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Philip Morris International (PMI), the world’s largest tobacco company, mulls the introduction in the Philippines of its heated-not-burned cigarette technology that it hopes could be categorized differently from the conventional tobacco saying its portfolio of smoke-free products significantly reduces the harmful effects caused by tobacco smoking.
James Arnold, PMI director for regulatory strategy and engagement south and southeast Asia of Philip Morris Asia Limited, told journalists during a media familiarization tour at its Innovation and Quality (IQ) Scientific Center’s electronic hub in Hong Kong that its portfolio of smoke-free products presents less risk of harm to smokers than the traditional cigarette. The IQ Scientific Center showcases the latest product innovation heat-not-burn technology. It also serves as the testing facility in Asia for the electronic parts in the development of the reduced-risk products (RRP) as well as exhibits PMI’s RRP scientific journey.
PMI’s technological innovation has already been introduced in other countries. In Asia, it was first launched in Japan, Korea and Malaysia. When asked when it should be officially launched in the Philippines, Arnold said, “sooner”.
A company study conducted in the Philippines showed that 6 out of 10 Filipino smokers or 59 percent are willing to switch to the heated and no-burning cigarette from the traditional way of smoking cigarette.
Arnold explained that PMI being as a responsible company has decided to come up with innovative smoke-free products to mitigate the impact of cigarette smoking on humans. Cigarette smoking causes deadly diseases such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, among others.
Innovation is important as people still continue to smoke despite concerted governments’ efforts to discourage people from smoking.
In the Philippines, there are an estimated 16 million Filipinos who still smoke. Globally, it is also estimated that 1.16 billion will still continue to smoke by 2030.
As scientists have proven that the addictive nicotine has nothing to do with the diseases associated with smoking but the smoke itself, PMI invested $4.5 billion in research and development in 2008 to remove the burning process in cigarette smoking.
It also invested $120 million for the construction of its R&D facility, the Cube, in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
Despite having tobacco as its core business, PMI develops and designs four platforms that eliminate burning of the cigarette as burning causes smoke, which is inhaled by the smoker and passed on to others causing serious illnesses.
PMI scientists came up with heated but no-combustion cigarette technology to offer less harmful alternatives to smokers. The science-backed process does not leave ashes from burning the tobacco as there is no actual burning, just heating the tobacco electronically using a precise heat control technology.
PMI’s heated cigarette products are also gaining momentum. More than 40 million smokers are using e-cigarettes of which 10 million are using heated cigarettes and 7 million are exclusively using the Philip Morris IQOS brand as people who don’t stop smoking and those who cannot quit smoking are switching to heated cigarettes than the traditional way of smoking cigarette.
In a demo, Nigel Tan of PMI Quality Management presented PMI’s emerging portfolio of new smoke-free products including IQOS, a heated tobacco product which heats but does not burn tobacco and IQOS MESH, a next-generation e-vapor product with built-in safety features that addresses a number of very legitimate concerns about e-cigarette device’s safety.
All of these four platforms eliminate fire, smoke, and ash but they still give smokers what they’re looking for flavor, ritual, and nicotine.
This does not mean though that these products are no longer risk-free. Nicotine was and remains addictive and kids should not smoke and kids should not vape. But for those smokers who don’t and can’t quit smoking, they represent a positive leap forward.
In the presentation comparing the smoke from the heated cigarette and the traditional cigarette, it was shown that the smoke of a filter pad from a traditional combustible cigarette was brown. The other filter pad from an IQOS device showed a white pad.
This is because in IQOS, water and glycerin represent 90 percent of the aerosol mask and toxicants are reduced by 90 percent and there are no carbon-based solid particles.
In the toxicological assessment, PMI scientists observed a substantial reduction in toxicity of the aerosol of Platform 1 compared to the traditional cigarette smoke. Scientists also observed that smokers who switched to Platform 1 were exposed to lower levels of harmful chemicals compared to those who continued smoking.
In its 5-day and 90 day clinical reduced exposure studies, scientists found that the levels of these biomarkers of exposure in participants switching to Platform 1 were comparable to the levels of those who quit smoking for the duration of the study. In both cases, the levels remained well below those observed in subjects who continued smoking during the study.
Both platforms 1 and 2 showed an average of 90-95 percent reduction of levels of HPHCs, which are chemicals or chemical compounds in tobacco products or tobacco smoke that cause or could cause harm to smokers and even non-smokers.
Scientists also observed an average of 90-95 percent reduction in toxicity in laboratory settings.
As PMI is set to roll out its portfolio of no-combustion cigarette products, Arnold expressed hope that government regulations treat their innovative products differently from the traditional cigarettes.
“Tobacco harm reduction encourages smokers who would otherwise continue smoking to switch to less risky alternatives,” Arnold said.
He expressed hope that the US and the EU will move toward new rules that could possibly set their products under a different category, but not necessarily less stringent rules.
“Regulation should get the balance right,” he said.
PMI is also is of the idea that a core harm minimization principle is that policy, regulation and advocacy be science-based and proportional to the degree of product harm, with the most restrictive strategies applying to the most harmful products.
Regulatory oversight can strike the right balance in the areas of minimum age, quality and safety standards, health warning labels, communication focused on adult smokers, scientific substantiation, and monitoring and surveillance.
The PMI Science is backed by over 430 scientists and engineers. With over 3,400 patents granted, PMI is the largest patent filer in the EU.