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Tobacco Behemoth Heaps Praise On FDA’s Friendlier Stance To Vaping

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A giant of the tobacco industry is praising the recent decision by U.S. health regulators to soften their rules on e-cigarettes and promote safer technologies.

Andre Calantzopoulos, the CEO of Philip Morris International, said Tuesday the FDA move is “one of the best articulated positions in many years,” to come out of the agency. The comments are the first from any of the major tobacco companies since FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced their new plans for tobacco regulation July 28, reports Reuters.

Gottlieb rescheduled the deadline for companies to comply with the FDA’s contentious “deeming rule” from Aug. 8, 2018 to Aug. 8, 2022, giving the vaping industry some much needed breathing room. The FDA “deeming rule” requires businesses to retroactively submit each individual product to the FDA for approval before it can be sold. Businesses will have to file applications for nearly every product they currently sell at a cost of $100,000 to $400,000 each.

The FDA will also attempt to reduce the levels of nicotine allowed in traditional cigarette products as part of their overall tobacco strategy.

Calantzopoulos said he is “extremely encouraged” by the FDA’s plans and stressed Philip Morris (PMI) is committed to developing safer technologies for delivering nicotine.

“I don’t think the issue requires litigation or anything of this nature,” Calantzopoulos told Reuters. “It requires dialogue in order to see what the feasibility is, and most importantly, how all these measures are phased in. If people understand that this is not an isolated measure but something that is part of a comprehensive policy, I think we can find a solution.”

PMI is shaking up global tobacco markets with a device that heats tobacco instead of burning it, which they argue produces a more powerful buzz than current e-cigarettes while eliminating much of the harms of smoking. PMI’s iQOS product is proving a smash hit in Japan, where it debuted nationwide in April 2016.

Sales are outperforming PMI’s expectations, accounting for 7.1 percent of Japan’s overall tobacco sales as of the first quarter of 2017. At this rate, Calantzopoulos estimates traditional cigarettes could be on the chopping block in Japan and South Korea within a few years.

He says the company’s investments are focused “squarely in our reduced risk product portfolio.”

Despite softening its stance towards innovative technologies to reduce the smoking rate, the FDA made it clear in its July announcement that it still plans to greatly scrutinize the vaping industry.

The FDA revealed plans Aug. 8 to launch a campaign aimed at educating America’s youth on the alleged “dangers” of e-cigarettes. Public health experts argue this risks discouraging young Americans, even if they are already smoking, from using e-cigarettes, and spreading misconceptions about the devices.

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