In case you haven’t been paying attention, the news is awash with an announcement from Philip Morris saying that their Heat-not-Burn product iQOS is coming to the UK. London specifically – for the moment at least.
Well, so what you might be asking, why has a new product launch attracted so much press? The answer to that is two-fold. One, it’s a new product from a tobacco company. We all know how much folks are beginning to despise the tobacco industry – particularly those in tobacco control and public health. Two, it sits in the middle-ish of the “risk-profile” (if such a thing is to be believed) with combustibles at the top, abstinence at the bottom, NRT, e-cigarettes, and snus all feature.
I’m rather looking forward to this product reaching the full UK market for the sole and simple reason is it gives consumers more choice. They can choose traditional smokes, e-cigarettes and now iQOS (other HnB products will no doubt become available in time). This is a good thing. As soon as I’m able, I’ll be getting one.
That’s not the reason for this post.
Philip Morris could stop making conventional cigarettes
Anyone with an ounce of sense will realise that PMI have no short-term intentions to stop selling traditional combustibles. That may indeed be a long term aim – say in 20-30 years – but in order to phase out (if they actually intend on doing so) combustibles, they need something to replace them with.
PMI do indeed have an e-cigarette product – partnered with Altria of course, and they bought Nicocigs (owners of Nicolites), and they’ve spent a lot of time and cash on their old “Heatstick” design to come up with the iQOS. Where does the cash come from for this R&D? Sales and investment.
Now that PMI have “officially” launched iQOS in the UK, the usual suspects are, once again, failing their own scream test:
“Philip Morris is a tobacco company. They are still making most of their profits from selling cigarettes,”
You won’t need any guesses to know who that comment came from. The very same individual that thinks medical regulations for e-cigs are a good idea (until BAT received approval for the eVoke of course). This is the problem with the regulations, they are thoroughly burdensome and only favour the larger companies that have a large financial impetus, not the smaller businesses that are (currently) disrupting the market. But then, they know that all too well. They’d rather have fewer larger corporations to deal with than hundreds of smaller businesses.
Having reduced risk products available, from whichever manufacturer, to smokers (or anyone that chooses to use them) can only be a net public health gain. Or so you’d think. But this is a leading anti-smoking sockpuppet charity that “doesn’t trust the industry”. As one Dave Dorn succinctly puts it:
They’re screaming for independent research into the risk profile. Here’s an idea. They leech public money – yes, WE fund them – so let THEM, in the public interest (which it undeniably is) fund the research. Let THEM actually use the money they trough from the public coffers for a good purpose – get it given to an independent and unbiased lab to replicate the studies and confirm or deny the claims.
Quite. If ASH et al are really that ‘concerned’ about this product, or the research performed by “the industry” (which I’ll point out, the industry has far better scientists on staff than tobacco control do – with one or two exceptions) then they need to put their (taxpayer funded) cash where their oversized mouth is.
If, as Christopher Snowdon points out, the effect of iQOS in Japan turns out to be accurate, we’ll be looking at another Swedish Experience with a different product. Reduced risk products, in any form, that give pleasure and satisfaction to the user – be that e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn or some next generation product that some bright spark has yet to invent – should be welcomed at all levels. Oh wait.
until independent evidence shows that IQOS and similar products are substantially less harmful than smoking, they should be regulated in the same way as cigarettes.
Where have we heard that before?
As a general footnote, if anyone manages to get hold of one of these do let me know as I’ll have a million and one questions to ask you. Better yet, get two of them and send one in my direction.
As for public health and tobacco control – step up, you fund the independent science you need – you know Science 101, replication, replication, replication – and herald the coming of a new reduced risk product as a viable alternative to smoking for those that want it. You know you want to.
(Image credit ThamKC / shutterstock.com)