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Tobacco Giant Ends Factory’s Cigarette Manufacturing To Shift To New Technologies

REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The world’s largest tobacco company ceased cigarette manufacturing recently at one of their factories, shifting entirely to producing alternative smoking technologies.

The decision, which was announced March 21, is part of their broader strategy to reduce and ultimately eliminate production of combustible cigarettes in favor of smoke-free products, Philip Morris International (PMI) said. The Aspropyrgos, Greece, factory, run by PMI affiliate Papastratos, is now exclusively manufacturing HEETS, the tobacco component in PMI’s heat-not-burn device IQOS, Vaping Post reported.

Unlike a traditional e-cigarette, which vaporizes nicotine fluid, the IQOS heats tobacco leaves. Users insert sticks resembling short cigarettes into the device, which heats a concentrated dose of tobacco, eliminating the harmful combustion process of cigarettes.

“This is a historic day for our company. Papastratos is the first of our factories to end cigarette production and fully shift to manufacturing our smoke-free alternatives,” PMI CEO André Calantzopoulos said in a statement. “We made a commitment to provide all people who would otherwise continue smoking with potentially less harmful products. The momentum around this revolutionary change for the benefit of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers, public health and society at large is growing, and we will continue working towards a smoke-free future.”

PMI is raising eyebrows among tobacco control groups skeptical of their motives. In September 2017, the tobacco giant committed $1 billion over the next 12 years to a new, charity Foundation For A Smoke Free World, which says they are committed to eradicating smoking.

An ad campaign by PMI in the U.K. in January addressed the skeptics, saying for smokers, “the best action they can take is to quit smoking,” but noted many smokers will struggle to abstain from the habit. 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.

The device is proving wildly popular overseas, directly fueling an 18 percent drop in annual cigarette sales in Japan after little more than a year on the market.

The unprecedented success of heat-not-burn products in Japanese and European markets show the promising impact the technology could have on reducing global smoking rates, public health experts said.

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

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