Country Plagued By Smoking Addiction Targeted For Big Tobacco’s Latest Technology

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A global tobacco giant is planning to introduce its heat-not-burn technology into Russia, a country that currently boasts one of the world’s highest smoking rates.

British American Tobacco (BAT), which owns Reynolds American Inc., announced Monday its plans to introduce the glo into Russia, the fifth market targeted for the company’s heat-not-burn product. The glo by BAT heats tobacco leaves instead of burning them, giving users a throat hit akin to a cigarette without the added carcinogens, reports Winston-Salem Journal.

Sticks resembling short cigarettes are inserted into the device, which heats a concentrated dose of tobacco. By heating the tobacco rather than combusting it, roughly 90 to 95 percent of the toxins released by a cigarette are eliminated. The glo is currently available in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Canada, with plans to submit the technology to the Food and Drug Administration for sale in the U.S.

Glo is a response to the iQOS heat-not-burn device manufactured by Philip Morris International (PMI), which is eating up large chunks of Asian tobacco markets. Big tobacco companies are focusing greater resources on their reduced-risk portfolio, as smokers are increasingly turning to alternatives such as vaping.

Russia represents a potentially lucrative market for alternative tobacco products that satisfy smokers’ cravings, given that an estimated 40 percent of the population are active smokers.

“The heat-not-burn products have led to Japan currently having the most rapid decline in cigarette smoking that we have ever seen in a developed market,” David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa told the Winston-Salem Journal. “Russia is a huge market that has shown receptivity to low-risk products, so BAT is being astute rather than becoming the next Kodak…Tobacco companies have no choice, they either ride this wave or get crushed by it.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration began reviewing PMI’s product application for the iQOS earlier this year, which will determine if the product can be sold in the U.S. The FDA is also reviewing a Modified Risk Tobacco Product application, which will determine if the iQOS can be marketed as a safer alternative to smoking.

There is little available data on the health impacts of heat-not-burn products, but research from the free-market think tank R Street Institute suggests they cut risks to the user on a similar scale as vapor products.

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