Heat-Not-Burn Popularity Is Helping Millions Of Overseas Smokers Ditch Cigarettes

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The popularity of harm reduction technologies like the heat-not-burn IQOS device from Philip Morris International (PMI) is causing millions of smokers to ditch cigarettes in overseas markets.

Since the launch of the IQOS device in South Korea in 2017, one million smokers in the country have replaced their cigarettes with the alternative technology, data released by Philip Morris Korea on May 23 revealed. The company has sold roughly 1.9 million IQOS devices since June 2017, suggesting smokers are increasingly investing in technologies that reduce health risks from combustible tobacco, reported The Investor.

Unlike a traditional e-cigarette, which vaporizes nicotine fluid, the IQOS heats tobacco leaves. Users insert sticks resembling short cigarettes called Heets into the device, which heats a concentrated dose of tobacco, eliminating the harmful combustion process of cigarettes. (RELATED: E-Cigarette Giant Rips The ‘World Health Organization’s Silence On Vaping’)

“I am pleased to see that our vision to replace cigarettes with science-based smoke-free products is becoming a reality in Korea at an unprecedented speed,” said Chong Il-woo, managing director for Philip Morris Korea, according to The Investor.

Representatives for Philip Morris Korea said in the first quarter of 2018 sales of Heets accounted for 7.3 percent of the total tobacco market in South Korea.

The success of alternative smoking technologies like IQOS is also causing an unprecedented drop in cigarette sales in neighboring markets. Domestic cigarette sales for Japan Tobacco (JT) dropped by 13.2 percent in April, mimicking the monthly pattern of decline the company experienced in 2017 following the introduction of the IQOS in Japan in 2016, and later the heat-not-burn glo device from British American Tobacco.

Preliminary data from JT shows overall cigarette sales in Japan from all tobacco companies in April fell by 13.75 percent compared to April 2017.

“We have known for decades that a great many people who smoke cigarettes wish to reduce their risks,” David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We now have electronic options such as vaping and ‘heat-not-burn’ products like IQOS and glo. These have lead to sustained double-digit rates of decline in cigarette sales in Japan and South Korea.”

Despite the unprecedented dip in cigarette sales, U.S. health groups remain skeptical of alternative technologies, while the largely anti-vaping media simply ignores the overseas public health gains. Early research shows heat-not-burn products drastically cut the risk for tobacco related cancers and diseases by heating tobacco leaves instead of burning them.

Public health experts focused on harm reduction say the historic success of heat-not-burn products in overseas markets shows the promising impact the technology could have on reducing global smoking rates.

PMI estimates roughly four million former smokers in 30 different markets across the world are actively using the IQOS product.

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