Tobacco Giants Compete With Cutting Edge E-Cig Technologies

REUTERS/Toru Hanai

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Tobacco giants are set to compete with new electronic cigarette devices that heat tobacco instead of burning it, potentially eliminating 90 percent of the dangers associated with smoking.

British American Tobacco (BAT) will introduce a device next month to compete with Philip Morris International in Japan. Philip Morris began a national roll out of its iQOS device in Japan in mid-April and demand for the product has been staggering. Unlike a traditional e-cigarette, which vaporizes nicotine fluid, the iQOS heats tobacco leaves to create a smokeless alternative to burning cigarettes. BAT will release a similar device Dec. 12 in Sendai, Japan called the “glo,” to compete with the iQOS, reports Fox News.

The iQOS device is outperforming the hopes of Philip Morris in Japan, accounting for 4.3 percent of Japan’s overall tobacco sales as of October. BAT, which is currently buying out Reynolds American, is eager to gain a foothold in the burgeoning market.

“At this moment, we are seeing far greater demand than our expectations and iQOS devices sell out as soon as they hit stores,” a Philip Morris Japan spokeswoman told Fox News.

BAT has spent more than $1 billion over the past five years to develop cutting edge technologies that offer smokers viable alternatives. The buyout of Reynolds American will give BAT access to decades of research Reynolds has been pouring cash into since the 1980s. The two companies currently have a technology sharing agreement, but a full acquisition would give BAT access to top scientists and an array of new products.

Glo will operate much like the iQOS device, using sticks resembling cigarettes that are inserted into a heating device. The device will sell for the equivalent of $77 and the accompanying tobacco sticks called “Kent Neostiks” will sell in Japan for about $4. After the initial test trial in Sendai, BAT hopes to begin a national roll out of their device in Japan.

Philip Morris remains ahead of the competition and wants to introduce iQOS into the U.S. following its success in Japan and a number of European cities. Japan is currently the only country where the device is nearly universally accessible.

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