Phillip Morris International isn’t quitting cigarettes cold turkey. But the CEO of the world’s largest tobacco company said today (Nov. 30) that it’s phasing out the classic cancer stick, and replacing it with smoking alternatives.
“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products…to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” Andre Calantzopoulos told the BBC in a radio interview. “I hope this time will come soon.”
The company has invested more than $2 billion in what it believes are reduced-risk tobacco products. Today, it introduced the IQOS smokeless cigarette to the British market, already on sale in twelve other countries, including Japan and Switzerland.
The World Health Organization says tobacco kills about 6 million people a year. But Phillip Morris says its electronic alternatives are less harmful to health than the conventional killer cigarettes and better than other vaporizers. The IQOS heats tobacco into a vapor, whereas most e-cigs are loaded with a liquid.
Still, e-cigs, or vaporizers, come with their own hazards. The lithium ion batteries used to heat them do sometimes explode and cause injuries.
Plus, it’s not yet clear just how safe e-cigs actually are. Although they don’t contain the deadly tar found in regular cigarettes, public health experts suspect the hidden dangers of vaping have yet to be discovered. That’s made legislators reluctant to allow e-cig smoking in public places.
In the US, California representative Duncan Hunter puffed on a vaporizer at a congressional debate in February to show his colleagues it was harmless and not bothersome to others. He failed to convince them to permit e-cig smoking on planes but earned the nickname, “the Vaping Congressman.”