A new smoking device that one tobacco executive said could one day “phase-out” cigarettes is being lauded among medical experts for greatly reducing the health risks from using tobacco.
Tobacco giants are beginning to compete with new electronic cigarette devices that heat tobacco instead of burning it, potentially eliminating a large amount of the dangers associated with smoking. Evidence suggests that because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke, e-cigarettes eliminate up to 95 percent of the risk. Two tobacco companies are pioneering the method with “heat not burn” (HNB) products that are currently only available overseas.
New research evaluating the impact of HNB devices on overall health are bolstering their image as a harm reduction product that can help move smokers away from traditional cigarettes.
“Heating tobacco at lower temperatures than combustible cigarettes allows nicotine to be delivered in ways that retain much of the ritual and experience of smoking,” Dr. Edward Anselm, a senior fellow of the R Street Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Comprehensive scientific programs have demonstrated these products present significantly reduced risk when compared to traditional cigarettes. Collectively, they represent a new set of tools to reduce the harm of combustible tobacco.”
Philip Morris International is currently leading the industry on alternative technologies to traditional smoking. The company 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. Tobacco sticks branded HEETS, which resemble small cigarettes, are inserted into the heating device for use.
Philip Morris wants to introduce its iQOS device into the U.S. following the successes in Japan and 20 additional markets across the world, including Britain and a number of other European cities. The iQOS device is outperforming the hopes of Philip Morris in Japan, accounting for 5.5 percent of Japan’s overall tobacco sales as of December. Globally, Philip Morris delivered 7.4 billion units of HEETS in 2016, up from only 396 million units in 2015.
The product’s introduction into the United States could prove more difficult for companies producing heat-not-burn technologies.
“While it appears the research programs to support HNB products are well on their way toward meeting the requirements for new and modified risk products, it is not yet clear how stringently the FDA will interpret the guidelines,” Anselm said.
Andre Calantzopoulos, CEO of Philip Morris International, said last year the company’s ultimate goal is to stop selling traditional cigarettes. The company produces roughly 870 billion cigarettes a year.
“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products … to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” Calantzopoulos told BBC Radio 4 Nov. 30. “I hope this time will come soon.”
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