Marlboro maker vows to switch from cigarettes to smoke-free products ‘as fast as possible’

© Global Look Press / Michaela Begsteiger / Free

The world’s biggest cigarette seller, Philip Morris International (PMI), is making the “the biggest shift” in its history as it pledged to replace traditional cigarettes with smoke-free products.

The international tobacco giant, the producer of popular Marlboro and Parliament, as well as more than a dozen other brands, wants to switch hundreds of millions of current adult smokers to what it sees as a “better” way of smoking as quickly as possible. In a statement on its website, PMI said it now prioritizes electronic substitutes over cigarettes and has already invested billions into the development of “less harmful, yet satisfying” alternatives for consumers.

“Since 2008, we’ve invested around USD 4.5 billion, employing more than 400 world-class scientists, engineers, and technicians,” the company said.

Four smoke-free products are in the tobacco giant’s plans, with the first one of those – IQOS – rolled out to the market years ago. The device allows the tobacco to be heated rather burned, generating a flavorful nicotine-containing vapor. The smoke-free method allows toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke to be significantly reduced, according to the company. 

Around 5.9 million smokers have switched to it, according to PMI. The company noted that the device and its other new smoke-free products are only intended for existing adult smokers, but not for first-time or former smokers.

However, Philip Morris was earlier accused of hiding some problems existing in the clinical trials for the smoking device. Former workers claimed the tobacco giant hired poorly-qualified researchers for the experiments, raising concerns about the clinical trial program, Reuters found in 2017. 

A study published in the journal Tobacco Control last year found that IQOS may not be as harmless as it is claimed to be. The authors said users can potentially breathe in large amounts of vapor, which may lead to toxic exposure and other potential health threats, and called for further safety testing. 

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