Philip Morris International (PMI) this week launched its heated tobacco device iQOS in the UK. The Big Tobacco company, which released the iQOS in Japan in 2014, believes tobacco companies need alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
“We certainly see a future where Philip Morris no longer will be selling cigarettes in the market,” said Martin Inkster, managing director of PMI UK and Ireland. He added that this could take many years and that companies would need the help of both governments and regulators in the course of the transition away from smoking.
The new iQOS is for now available only in central London at a price of £45. Tobacco sticks Heets, in amber, yellow and turquoise varieties, are sold separately, a pack of 20 costing £8. The company plans to sell the products nationwide in 2017.
The iQOS is already on sale in more than a dozen countries, including Japan, Switzerland and Italy. PMI says it plans to have it in 20 markets by the end of the year, rising to 35 by the end of 2017.
The last ECigIntelligence market report on heat-not-burn (HnB) products points to the rise of such devices in the market, with more new approaches to product design in the near future and an increase in sales.
According to the latest ECigIntelligence figures, there are 4495 points of sale for HnB products in Japan, most of them selling Heets sticks.
Despite the expansion of iQOS, the regulatory status of heat-not-burn (HnB) products in Europe is unclear – the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) was drafted before HnB was well established, and regulators have had to determine since which category the products best fit into.
There is concern in the industry about how these products are to be regulated, in particular the possibility that future rules could treat e-cigarettes and HnB products the same way. One of the key differences between HnB products and e-cigs is that the former contain actual tobacco leaf.
PMI says iQOS is the result of 10 years of research by more than 400 scientists at the company’s base in Lausanne, Switzerland and an investment of more than £2.4bn. It says its research indicated that iQOS produces on average less than 10% of the levels of harmful constituents found in cigarette smoke. Other clinical studies showed reduced levels of toxicants in users who switched to the new device were reduced.
What This Means: The launch of the iQOS device in the UK could become a very important step towards a smokeless future. PMI considers its new product to be “innovative” and “revolutionary”.
The company says more than a million smokers have switched to iQOS since its pilot launch in 2014, reinforcing the view that smokeless devices of this kind can be a less harmful alternative, helping smokers switch away from traditional combustible tobacco products. Philip Morris still produces more than 870bn cigarettes worldwide each year.
– David Palacios ECigIntelligence staff
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