Philip Morris International is Big Tobacco’s biggest tobacco company, worth some $130 billion. In the first quarter of 2019 alone, the Switzerland-based behemoth sold about 60 billion Marlboros—the world’s most popular cigarettes, which represent less than one-fifth of PMI’s cigarette sales overall. And yet, Philip Morris executives claim the company is on a mission to “unsmoke the world.” How? By converting its countless consumers to electronic alternatives like its new IQOS device, which heats small rolls of tobacco (refills called “Heetsticks” that resemble miniature cigarettes) and creates vapor containing nicotine to be inhaled. The IQOS is already available in more than 40 countries and launching in the US this month.
Quartz sat down with Philip Morris International chief operating officer Jacek Olczak at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in June, where PMI was promoting its new message and meeting with creative agencies who might help communicate it. The following interview has been edited and condensed from that conversation, and includes additional questions from a follow-up phone call in August.