Philip Morris International, the world's largest international tobacco company, could eventually stop selling cigarettes, its chief executive told the BBC yesterday, as it launched its alternative product IQOS in the UK market. The company's IQOS smokeless cigarette which is already on sale in over a dozen markets including Japan, Switzerland and Italy, heats tobacco enough to produce a vapour without burning it. The company believes that makes it much less harmful than cigarettes. The tobacco giant claims this means smokers get the same nicotine hit, but 90% less of the nasty toxins that come with cigarette smoke.
"I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products... to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes," Andre Calantzopoulos said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.
In his first UK broadcast interview, he has told the Today program that the company knows its products harm their consumers, and that the only correct response is to "to find and commercialise" ones that are less harmful. "That is clearly our objective," he said.
However, CEO of Action on Smoking and Heath tells Radio 4's Today the iQOS cigarettes are "not harm-free". It is not the first time cigarette makers have experimented with heating rather than burning tobacco to do less less damage to consumers. In the 1980s, Reynolds, the big American tobacco company, produced the Premier, which heated tobacco but which still involved some combustion. It lasted a year, with customers complaining of a complicated lighting procedure and a charcoal aftertaste. PMI's solution is much more Silicon Valley. But anti-smoking campaigners said products such as Iqos, like tobacco, need tough regulation. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told Today: "We still need to be very cautious about what the industry's up to."