‘Healthier alternatives’ to cigarette smoking gain attention

‘Healthier alternatives’ to cigarette smoking gain attention

Philip Morris rolls out IQOS in New Zealand

Venkat Raman

New Zealand is fast becoming a ‘Smoke-free country,’ and with increasing restrictions on lighting up in public places (shortly in private vehicles as well), the only place left may be your own home. From offices, restaurants, hotel lobbies and guest rooms to parks, pubs and restrooms, there are more limitations than freedom to smoke.

In pursuing its rigorous campaigns to discourage people from smoking, the New Zealand government increases the tax on tobacco products by 10% on January 1 every year, collecting $2 billion in additional revenue. All promotions have been banned and retailers are not allowed even to display tobacco products. Besides, every packet of cigarettes carries unpleasant pictures depicting the harmful effects of smoking on the human body.

Landmark Report on Smoking

In 1964, a landmark Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of Public Health Service in the USA warned that Cigarette Smoking is injurious to health. The war that began then has continued, with public health authorities and governments emerging as clear winners. There are of course groups of smokers that keep protesting that their rights are being taken away, but no one seems to be listening.

But Philips Morris International (PMI) has been listening. The multinational giant, which made ‘Marlboro Country’ and Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ famous, is actively promoting ‘Smoke-Free Future’ and supporting programmes to help people quit the smoking habit.

Philip Morris and Future

PMI New Zealand General Manager James Williams said that New Zealand has campaigned hard against smoking and has achieved substantial success.

There are about 605,000 active smokers in New Zealand, about 35% of who are of Maori and Pacific Island origin. People of Indian origin are also in the smokers’ mix, although there are no known figures. The number of adult smokers has declined steadily, from about 20% in 2007 to about 16% last year.

Mr Williams said that his company has been researching for more than two decades to develop products that give smokers the satisfactions they are seeking, but without the harmful effects of smoking, The company has developed a range of reduced harm smokeless tobacco and vaping products that emit 90-95% less harmful and potentially harmful constituents than continuing to smoke. While not risk-free, because they contain nicotine which is addictive, the new generation of smokeless tobacco and vaping products are considered a much better alternative than continuing to smoke. Mr Williams cautions that these products, while recommended for smokers who cannot or do not want to quit, are not recommended for non-smokers or young people.

The IQOS Alternative

“IQOS is our innovative brand that has found the acceptance of about six million customers in about 45 countries. It is less harmful than conventional, combustible cigarettes because it heats tobacco and does not burn it. There is no evidence of second hand smoke, so it is safe to use anywhere vaping is permitted. However, we do not recommend it be used in the presence of children and pregnant women,” he said.

At the heart of IQOS are sophisticated electronics that heat specially designed heated tobacco units. The devise, which looks like a shaver, heats the tobacco just enough to release a flavoured, nicotine-containing tobacco vapour but without burning the tobacco.

Harmful Chemicals reduced

Mr Williams said the tobacco in a cigarette burns at temperatures in excess of 600° C, generating smoke that contains harmful constituents.

“But IQOS heats tobacco to much lower temperatures, up to a maximum of 350° C, without combustion, fire, ash, or smoke. The lower temperature heating releases the true taste of heated tobacco. Because the tobacco is heated and not burned, the levels of harmful chemicals are significantly reduced compared to cigarette smoke,” he said.

The Company’s website advises smokers thus: “IQOS can’t burn you, others around you, pets, clothes, furniture or anything. Since no tobacco is burned and, thus, no fire is involved, there’s no lit end to do any damage or falling ash that makes a mess. IQOS produces an aerosol that dissipates more quickly.”

The product was recently launched in New Zealand but the outcome is becoming apparent.

Mr Williams said that there are thousands of customers and its success can be measured by the fact that more than 60% of them have permanently quit smoking conventional cigarettes.

Burglars’ target

“We are committed to a healthy, smoke-free New Zealand,” he said.

Superettes, Convenience Stores, Petrol Pump Stores and similar retail outlets in New Zealand are largely operated by people of Indian origin. Almost all of them invariably retail cigarettes, which are the target of burglars and offenders in general. With cigarette prices skyrocketing, these shops have been experiencing increasing thefts and threats.

Mr Williams said that the Indian community is very important to his Company, both as customers and as businesspersons who sell cigarettes and the new reduced-risk products that are replacing cigarettes.

“As the government progresses with new legislation for vaping industry this year, the Indian business community will be particularly affected by potential changes to their businesses,” he said.

Vaping has potential

University of Michigan Professor Emeritus of Public Health Kenneth E Warner, in his well-researched article, ‘Smoking has reduced but not vanished’ (published in our web edition on February 3, 2019), said that Vaping may hold the potential to help significant numbers of Americans to quit smoking.

“The risks of vaping are clearly substantially less than those of smoking. At the same time, however, there are concerns about the attraction of e-cigarettes to young people and uncertainty about the health effects of long-term vaping,” he said.

While the ultimate impacts of e-cigarettes and other novel non-combusted tobacco products remain to be seen, there is widespread agreement that it is the burning of tobacco, primarily in the form of cigarette smoking, with its 7000 chemicals, that is by far the deadliest method of consuming tobacco.


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