Philip Morris International may have humble beginnings as tobacco shop all the way back in 1847 but they quickly grew to dominate the emerging industry. Most well known for its Marlboro brand cigarettes the company now produces more than 870 billion cigarettes every year. But even though they have had much success over the past century and a half, present chief executive Andre Calantzopoulos is now saying they plan to phase out cigarettes.
In a BBC Radio 4 interview, he has said: “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.”
And this appears to be the sentiment across the brand. For example, Philip Morris UK and Ireland managing director Martin Inkster notes, “We certainly see a future where Philip Morris no longer will be selling cigarettes in the market.”
He also goes on to say that it will still take several years—and require help from regulators and the government as a whole—and they are have already developed some products in the effort to move forward. After ten years of research—and $3 billion in investment dollars—the company now reports their IQOS product is a step in the right direction: towards a smokeless future.
The IQOS is an electronic device that is already widely for sale on the international market. You can find it in Italy, Japan, and Switzerland. The device heats tobacco just enough to produce a vapor—but does not burn the tobacco. That is the significant difference between the device and traditional cigarettes, of course, as well as e-cigarettes (which vaporize liquid nicotine).
This effort by Philip Morris demonstrates that rather than argue and bicker over the previous UK court ruling to require plain-face packaging. Indeed, Philip Morris is the only of the four big tobacco brands to show a renewed focus on lower-risk products instead of simply pumping away at the old ways. These lower-risk products may only be a very small market right now but data shows that there is growing interest. Over time, then, lower-risk tobacco products could, in fact, become the norm, the industry standard.