By Lubna Hamdan
"We don’t want to see non-smokers using these products"
Tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI), which manufactures and distributes the popular cigarette brand Marlboro, is currently in talks to introduce a smoke-free product in the GCC that -- the company says -- is “potentially less harmful” than cigarettes.
The electronic device, called IQOS, is designed to heat tobacco without burning it, releasing nicotine-containing vapour that features 90 percent to 95 percent lower levels of toxicants compared to cigarette smoke.
“Today, IQOS is available in 25 markets globally, and by the end of 2017, we expect it to be in key cities or nationwide in a total of 30 to 35 markets, subject to capacity. The GCC is very important for us and we hope to make the product available as soon as proper regulations are in place and as our international manufacturing facilities step up,” said Lana Gamal-Eldin, director corporate affairs middle east, Philip Morris Management Services (Middle East) Limited.
Instead of traditional cigarettes, IQOS uses tobacco sticks called HEETS or HeatSticks, which do not burn and can therefore be disposed of safely in waste bins without being “put out”.
The rechargeable device, which has attracted more than two million consumers, is activated with a push of a button, after which the users insert the HeatStick onto a built-in blade and wait 20 seconds for the stick to burn, before they can consume the tobacco.
IQOS is believed to be a “better option” for smokers who otherwise would not quit smoking, according to PMI. However, the tobacco giant has urged governments and public health regulators to “embrace the opportunity represented by advancements in technology and science and design regulations that encourage smokers to [switch to potentially less harmful products].
“For instance, it is important for health warnings to reflect the product’s actual degree of risk -- and this is what [PMI] are currently doing -- explaining our product to regulators and the health communities and its potential risk reduction,” Gamal-Eldin said.
Furthermore, research by PMI has shown negligible interest in IQOS among former smokers and non-smokers.
“We’re not saying that iQOS is risk-free. We’re always comparing against smoking because that’s the problem we all need to solve today. We don’t want to see non-smokers using these products. [Health regulators] wanted manufacturers to follow certain guidelines to test pre-market, if non-smokers would be interested, because at least if they would be interested, then that would flag concerns for them,” said Joshua Gideon Townsend, manager corporate affairs RRP, PMI.
Scientists have found that smoke-free products, such as e-cigarettes, contain free radical toxins similar to those found in cigarette smoke and air pollution. However, they amount to just 1 percent of the level of conventional cigarettes, according to research by Johns Hopkins University in the US published in online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Arabian Business has contacted the Abu Dhabi Municipality for comment on the introduction of IQOS to the UAE.For all the latest retail news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.