Phillip Morris to sell heat-not-burn tobacco product in Phl

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

HONGKONG – Leading multinational tobacco company Phillip Morris International is not losing its sight on penetrating the smoking population in the Philippines, albeit hoping for less stringent regulations as it continues to lean toward a smoke-free puffing world.

With the goal of a “smoke-free future,” the maker of Marlboro and other major cigarette brands, is targeting to commercialize its “heat-not-burn” iQOS devices sooner rather than later, depending on government regulations which it hopes to be less strict than the conventional cigarettes.

“We know that they are ready in the Philippines but I also know that currently, legislators are trying to figure out what to do with this category. When that gets a bit more settled, we will know better how and when,” said James Arnold, PMI director for regulatory strategy and engagement in South and Southeast Asia, in a briefing here.

“There are lot of things that we are currently evaluating, consumer awareness is one of them, looking at the current regulatory framework and hopefully all those we can make a decision soon when to commercialize,” he said.

Latest international data showed there are close to 16 million Filipino smokers or about 23.8 percent of the adult population.

Another study conducted by PMI also showed that 60 percent of Filipino adult smokers are wiling to try alternatives if these are legal, met quality and safety standards and are conveniently available in the market.

PMI’s iQOS devices use battery power to heat tobacco at a very precise temperature, hot enough to generate aerosol to inhale and release nicotine but never gets to the point that the tobacco burns, which is said to be the major problem, not tobacco nor nicotine.

“Governments should recognize that the world is not binary anymore and there are products that can be part of the solution. We are now across the Asian region, selling in Japan, Korea, and Malaysia, and all of them, we have seen consistently that smokers are ready for something better,” Arnold said.

iQOS has yet to be commercialized in the Philippines and while there are a quite a number of other “smoke-free devices” in the country, these are oftentimes purchased in the black market.

Currently, PMI has a couple of manufacturing facilities in the Philippines which produce the conventional cigarettes, but moving toward its goal may also pave the way for a possible additional facility in the future.

“There is good potential for Philippine tobacco in this smoke-free category. We cannot say that it will be a major source but there is a role to play,” Arnold said. 

And while several countries, including the Philippines, are focusing on regulation and taxation to bring down cigarette consumption, the World Health Organization already said there will still be around a billion smokers globally by 2025.

“People want to see better alternatives, our ambition is to give consumers what they want, to give smokers better alternatives. We see where consumers are going, what they want, we know that through technology, we can invest in products that can help consumers and transform public health,” Arnold said.



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