PMI heats up program to convert smokers

By Chino S. Leyco

NEUCHATEL, Switzerland — Philip Morris International (PMI), the owner of Marlboro brands, is heating up its multibillion dollar program to end the tobacco smoke by introducing better alternatives to cigarettes consumed by Filipino smokers.

Amid concerns about the health risks poised by smoking, PMI has switched gears since 2008 by investing over $6 billion in science-based research, products development, and manufacturing hubs to come up with smoke-free cigarettes.

After 11 years of research and development, PMI has come up with four heated tobacco and non-tobacco products designed to significantly reduce or eliminate the harmful toxins found in combustible cigarettes, but at the same time, deliver the same characteristics of the traditional cigarettes.

One of the new low-risk tobacco products that will soon arrive in the Philippine market is the IQOS, which features low heating — not burning — tobacco, therefore creating a nicotine-containing vapor with significantly fewer harmful toxicants compared with cigarette smoke.

Emilija Veljkovic, PMI scientific and medical affairs manager, explained that nicotine, while addictive and not risk-free, is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases contrary to what many people believe.

“When a cigarette is lit, the burning of tobacco and other materials produces thousands of chemicals, many of which are widely recognized as being associated with the development of smoking-related diseases,” said Veljkovic, who is also a molecular biologist.

The tobacco in a regular cigarette burns at temperatures in excess of 600 degree celsius, which generates smoke that contains high levels of harmful chemicals. But IQOS heats tobacco to much lower temperatures, up to 350 degree celsius, without combustion, fire, ash, or smoke.

Based on the PMI studies, which were also assessed by external experts, IQOS contains on average 90 percent to 95 percent lower levels of toxicants than combustible cigarettes, but keeps nicotine at similar levels than regular tobacco products.

After IQOS’ six-month clinical exposure response study, it revealed that people who switched to the new heat-not-burn tobacco showed improvements in overall well-being. It likewise does not adversely affect indoor air quality and is not a source of second-hand smoke.

Anna Bodi, PMI global communications manager, meanwhile, clarified that IQOS is not for adult who have never smoked or who have quit tobacco and nicotine use, nor an alternative to quitting.
More than one billion people smoke today and, according to the World Health Organization, will continue to smoke in the near future. In the Philippines, there were an estimated 15.9 million smokers as of 2015.

With the technology, science and innovation, PMI said they provide an opportunity to encourage people who continue to smoke to switch to less harmful and smoke-free alternatives.

PMI, one of the world’s biggest multinational companies, added that it has committed to transform its business and encourage people who would otherwise continue smoking to replace cigarettes with better alternatives as soon as possible.