The largest tobacco company in the world says they are “trying to give up cigarettes” and embrace alternative smoking technologies in the New Year.
Philip Morris International (PMI) bought full page ads in some of largest media publications in the United Kingdom Tuesday claiming their New Year’s resolution is “to stop selling cigarettes” in the country. The ads are reportedly the start of a broader campaign by PMI to promote their heat-not-burn device iQOS in the U.K., with the goal of transitioning smokers to safer products, reports Campaign Live.
The ad campaign is raising eyebrows among tobacco control groups who are skeptical of the tobacco giant’s motives. PMI addresses these concerns by saying for smokers, “the best action they can take is to quit smoking,” but note many of the U.K.’s 7.6 million adult smokers will struggle to abstain from the habit.
“You might wonder if we really mean it,” says the ad from PMI. “We do.”
The company says they want to encourage this portion of the smoking population to transition to vaping or heat-not-burn devices, which drastically reduce the health risks from smoking combustible tobacco.
“Our ambition is to stop selling cigarettes in the U.K.,” PMI claims in the ad, which appeared in the The Daily Mirror, The Sun and The Times of London. “It won’t be easy. That’s why we want to replace cigarettes with products, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco, which are a better choice for the millions of men and women in the U.K. who would otherwise not stop smoking. No cigarette company has done anything like this before.”
The campaign is likely to draw criticism from the tobacco control community, but recent research bolsters claims by tobacco companies that their alternative technologies are far safer than cigarettes.
The Committee on Toxicity, an independent scientific committee that advises health services in the U.K., released research in December on the health profile of heat-not-burn devices compared to cigarettes. The study concluded that the devices eliminate up to 90 percent of the harmful chemicals and carcinogens released by cigarettes.
The researchers urge caution, however, saying the devices still pose a risk to the user’s health, but acknowledge the potential of the devices as harm reduction tools for smokers.
Heat-not-burn devices like Philip Morris International’s iQOS device, which debuted in Japan last year before being introduced in additional countries, are proving insanely popular with consumers in overseas markets. British American Tobacco is competing with iQOS with a heat-not-burn device of their own called the glo.
Sales for combustible cigarettes are spiraling downward at levels never before seen in Japan’s tobacco market since the introduction of heat-not-burn products.
Japan cigarette volumes declined nearly 17 percent year-over-year, the “fastest rate of decline this year,” according to a report from Piper Jaffray released Dec. 15. The drop in sales far outpaces the 1 to 2 percent annual declines historically seen in cigarette volumes in the country.
Public health experts say this is further proof that smokers will opt for healthier alternatives that can help them quit combustible tobacco when given the choice.
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