Corporate News

By Keith Richard D. Mariano,

PMFTC says no plans to introduce smokeless iQOS in Philippines yet

Posted on December 05, 2016

PHILIP MORRIS Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) is deviating from its parent’s vision of phasing out conventional cigarettes, for now.

Packs of Marlboro cigarettes are displayed for sale at a convenience store in Somerville, Massachusetts on July 17, 2014. -- REUTERS
The local affiliate of Philip Morris International, Inc. remains committed to growing its portfolio of conventional tobacco products, PMFTC Communications Manager Dave M. Gomez told BusinessWorld.

In an interview with BBC Radio last week, Philip Morris Chief Executive Officer Andre Calantzopoulos envisaged the phase out of cigarettes with the launch of the company’s smokeless iQOS product in the United Kingdom.

“We have no immediate plans of introducing iQOS in the Philippines. We are committed to grow our portfolio of conventional cigarettes here,” Mr. Gomez said in a mobile phone message on Thursday.

Philip Morris, through a joint venture with Swedish Match AB, has offered smokeless tobacco products outside of Scandinavia and the United States since 2009, according to information posted on its Web site.

The company behind the Malboro brand has already introduced iQOS to other markets, including Italy and Switzerland, prior to Great Britain. In Asia, the cigarette alternative has penetrated Japan.

“I believe that there will come a moment in time where we have sufficient adoption of this alternative product and sufficient awareness to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” global news agency Agence France-Presse quoted Mr. Calantzopoulos telling BBC Radio.

“I hope this time will come soon,” the executive added.

Asked during a telephone interview if PMFTC will take the same direction of phasing out conventional cigarettes in favor of non-burning tobacco products, Mr. Gomez said the joint venture between PMI and Fortune Tobacco Corp. of tycoon Lucio C. Tan has made no decision yet.

The Philippine government has taken several measures to discourage smoking among Filipinos. For instance, the Congress hiked the excise tax on tobacco products in 2012 and required manufacturers to affix graphic health warnings to cigarette packages in 2014.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Tobacco Free Initiative estimated that 28% or 16.9 million Filipinos aged 15 years and older were smoking tobacco mostly in the form of manufactured and hand-rolled cigarettes in 2010.

The number then dropped to 25.3% or 17.1 million in 2015, according to the initiative’s publication titled “WHO global trends in tobacco smoking 2000-2025.”

If efforts to control smoking continue at the same intensity, the WHO expects the prevalence of tobacco use among Filipino adults to reach 22.8% or 17.26 million by 2020 and 20.8% or 17.29 million by 2025.

Philip Morris is marketing iQOS as healthier option over cigarette. The device heats tobacco to produce vapor instead of burning the product, a process that releases smoke and other harmful compounds.

In another report, WHO estimated that 2% of adult Filipinos used smokeless tobacco products at end-December 2014. The prevalence was higher among those aged 13 to 15, with 4.5% reporting smokeless tobacco use.

But the use of smokeless tobacco products, often in the form of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), remains the subject of a public health dispute, WHO noted in a report for the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in September 2014.

“Whereas some experts welcome ENDS as a pathway to the reduction of tobacco smoking, others characterize them as products that could undermine efforts to denormalize tobacco use. ENDS, therefore, represent an evolving frontier, filled with promise and threat for tobacco control.”