Philip Morris International, one of the world’s largest tobacco cigarette companies, has announced it will launch a new line of lower health risk cigarettes, sometime in the next four years. Will this affect the electronic cigarette business?
Not too long ago we wrote about the new Ploom Pax vaporizer, a luxury gadget that uses tobacco leaves to create vapor, and presented it as a competitor for the e-cigarette. It turns out it’s nothing compared to what tobacco companies have in store. According to a Bloomberg report, Philip Morris International is planning to fight back against the increasingly popular electronic cigarette industry by launching three new priducts they say will be less harmful for the human body.
When Lorillard acquired Blu Cigs, everyone was quick to assume the two other major tobacco companies in America would follow suit and grab a piece of the tempting e-cigarette market, but apparently Philip Morris had other plans. “We are on the eve of what we all believe could be a paradigm shift for our industry,” CEO Louis Camilleri said in a speech. He added that the three new cigs have “the very real potential to not only be a game-changer, but also be the key to unlock several hitherto virgin territories, most notably the huge Chinese market.”
So what exactly is Philip Morris working on? Well, the “most promising” of the three lower health risk cigarettes would heat tobacco instead of burning it, or generate aerosol that consumers inhale, according to statements made by the company’s New York branch. I’m all for technological breakthroughs, especially in a controversial field like tobacco, but doesn’t this sound a lot like a regular vaporizer, like the one we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Anyway, the heated-tobacco device is ready to go into clinical trials, and Philip Morris expects to start production in three, four years. The other two devices that threaten to replace electronic cigarettes in the near future are still under development, so the company didn’t offer very many details, but we know one will be lit with a normal lighter, while the other will use a chemical reaction to produce nicotine aerosol. The three products will be sold under the company’s existing brands.
Philip Morris seem really excited about their upcoming products, and apparently they’re not the only ones. “PMI are far more advanced than I had expected,” said Erik Bloomquist, an analyst at Berenberg Bank, in London. Still, Andre Calantzopoulos, Philip Morris’ COO told investors in Lausanne, Switzerland that “We have to remain, however, alert to the fact that there may be bumps in the road, given the many complexities of this undertaking”. And the man knows what he’s talking about. Tobacco companies have spent billions over the last few decades trying to come up with a product less dangerous for the human body, but failed produce anything viable. In 1988, Reynolds American Inc tested the Premier, a heated-tobacco smokeless cigarette that it dropped in about a year, so they wouldn’t be the first to fail.
Only time will tell if Philip Morris’ new tobacco products will actually hit the market by 2017, but I don’t see them burying electronic cigarettes anytime soon. For one, e-cigs don’t have any tobacco at all, so even without long-term scientific proof, I would bet the farm they are still safer than anything that uses the addictive plant. After all, studies have shown even smokeless tobacco can cause health problems, even if not as many as burnt tobacco. Plus, now that Lorillard has entered the e-cigarette market, who knows how they’ll influence the game in the near future, and we’re still waiting to see the strategy of Reynolds American. It’s going to be one hell of a fight, and I hope we, the people, come out victorious.