Philip Morris is clearly betting on smokeless tobacco, a product estimated to reach 40% of its user volume in 2025, the company's top executive, André Calantzopoulos, told Efe today.
"My goal is to replace cigarettes as soon as possible," says Calantzopoulos, CEO of the largest tobacco company in the world, who today launched a new version of IQOS (IQOS 3.0), a heated tobacco product that emerged in 2014.
Unlike ordinary tobacco, which burns at a temperature above 600 degrees, products such as the IQOS heat tobacco to below 350 degrees, preventing combustion and smoke.
Considered by some as the most important tobacco revolution after the invention of the filter, the heated tobacco allows to avoid annoying fumes for people close to the smoker.
The message, according to Calantzopoulos, is that "you should not use nicotine at all, but if you use it, let it be with better producers than cigarettes."
The IQOS was born as a pilot experience in Japan in 2014, with better than expected results. Among other reasons, this country was chosen because the Japanese are always "very concerned about the impact they have on others".
For Philip Morris, head of brands such as Marlboro, heated tobacco accounts for 6% of its user volume this year, but it is a very volatile market, difficult to predict, compared to traditional cigarettes, much more stable.
"Our ambition is that by 2025, assuming nothing changes in the regulations, we believe that we can reach up to 40% of volume," Calantzopoulos said about the growth prospects of IQOS in its different versions.
Citing figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), the manager of the firm said that there are currently about 1,100 million smokers around the world and by 2025 it is estimated that it will be a very similar figure.
"Our goal is to convince all those people who change from cigarettes to new products," says the manager of the tobacco company.
"It is very clear that it is better to stop smoking or to never start, but if people are going to continue using nicotine, these products (like IQOS) are better for their health and for the people around them," he added.
Unlike traditional cigarettes, which continue to hoard a small fraction of Philip Morris' investments, heated tobacco has become the main "commercial focus" of the firm.
According to data from the firm, since 2008 Philip Morris has invested more than 4,500 million dollars in scientific research and development of alternative products to traditional tobacco.
Calantzopoulos indicated that between 70 and 80% of people who buy IQOS have completely changed to that system of heated tobacco, and the rest are smokers who still have a dual use.
It is a "very high" proportion and it is something that "can have a great impact on public health", he insisted.
The IQOS system, a small device in which tobacco capsules of a smaller size than the normal cigarette are introduced, currently reaches 43 countries, but one of the main challenges of the firm is how to deal with the different regulations.
There are no unified standards, not even in the European Union, in terms of health effects, the tax burdens that must be applied or how to publicize the product to the public.
The use of this type of tobacco has generated a global debate on the impact on health that can have. The most advanced in regulations is the United States, where IQOS is not yet waiting for the regulator to analyze the submitted documentation.
"Cigarettes are the most risky way to provide the taste of nicotine, it has a 100% risk, and if this product reduces that risk it should be regulated in a different way," stresses Philip Morris International's (PMI) CEO. .
Calantzopoulos can not say if with the development of new products such as tobacco heated at some point the traditional cigarette will die. "I wish I had a crystal ball," he says.
There is also no data on future trends taking into account the tastes of the youngest, although it does not seem that products such as the IQOS system are sufficiently attractive for them because their message "is risk reduction".
And that's not exactly "a very attractive message for teenagers," he jokes.