Controversial “Heat-Not-Burn” Product Sees American Launch Despite Controversy Surrounding Vaping
Nicotine vaping continues to come under heavy regulatory and media scrutiny amid reports of illnesses actually found to be caused by illicit cannabis oil cartridges instead. On top of this, traditional cigarette smoking remains just as deadly and taboo as it ever has been.
Despite the current hostile climate toward nicotine products, Altria (an American spin-off and rebranding effort of Philip Morris International) has brought its smokeless IQOS product to America in a soft-launch this week. The tobacco giant is banking on the appeal of its “heat-not-burn” system to former smokers, which the company claims heats tobacco sticks at a lower temperature than cigarettes delivering an authentic flavor with fewer toxins.
Philip Morris International (PMI) been marketing the IQOS device internationally for years now as a reduced-harm alternative to tobacco and way for smokers to finally quit. Public health experts have noted research showing these smokeless cigarettes are not as harmless as Altria and PMI are claiming, as users often end up inhaling deeper to consume more nicotine.
While Altria and PMI make unsubstantiated claims about the potential smoking cessation benefits and reduced harm their smokeless devices pose compared to tobacco, vaping already has an established track record of being both a proven smoking cessation device and reduced-harm alternative. Note that vaping functions far differently than smokeless devices, gently heating glycerin into vapor as opposed to heating harmful tobacco with added byproducts.
Vaping Over Smokeless
Despite misinformed hysteria and general negative sentiments regarding tobacco use in general, Philip Morris International has moved forward on its campaign of creating a “smoke-free world” with the American launch of its smokeless IQOS device. The tobacco giant is hoping its smokeless “heat-not-burn” system will help it stand apart from smoking and vaping.
The IQOS device heats tobacco sticks, which the company refers to as “heatsticks,” at a temperature far below combustion, which they claim delivers authentic tobacco flavor with fewer byproducts. PMI has been marketing the IQOS internationally in 49 countries since 2014 and is now testing the US market with a soft-launch based out of popup shops in Atlanta.
As IQOS uses actual tobacco and doesn’t use the exotic flavors that have come under fire recently, the device may not be subject to some of the excessive regulation that vapor products are currently subject to. The company is banking on the prohibition of vaping, hoping that former vapers and smokers alike can find appeal in their product as other options become less accessible.
While unrelated, it’s interesting to note that Altria owns a 35% stake in JUUL Labs, and used that leverage to recently place a former executive as CEO of the vaping giant. It would appear that Altria and PMI are far more focused on regaining market-share from vaping as cigarette sales decline than the benevolent cause of wanting to create a “smoke-free world” as they claim.
Facts On Vaping
We are currently living in the midst of a global smoking epidemic that impacts over a billion people throughout the world. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) estimates there are nearly 38 million smokers in the United States alone, 16 million of whom are living with some sort of smoking-related diseases.
There is evidence showing that vaping may be one of the strongest tools we have to fight this deadly epidemic, in contrast to smokeless devices such as IQOS that continue to use harmful tobacco. In a study, researchers from the University of Louisville concluded that vaping was by far the single most effective smoking cessation option, beating even prescription options such as Chantix.
Not only is vaping a proven smoking cessation aid, but there is also evidence noting the reduced harm vapor products pose as opposed to tobacco products. A report published by Public Health England in 2015 concluded that e-cigarettes are at least 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. In addition to this, a more recent 2018 report from the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center found that vapor is about 93% safer than smoke.
Following that last report, a separate study published by the Journal of Aerosol Sciences found that vapers have a 57,000 times lower risk of developing cancer compared to smokers. On top of this, researchers noted that particulate matter found in vapor is far less stable and smaller than that found in cigarette smoke.
Altria is big tobacco’s attempt to leverage the hostile climate surrounding vaping by offering a regulatory loophole alternative to both vaping and smoking. This isn’t a matter of a benevolent company initiative to create a “smoke-free world,” but rather an attempt by a multinational tobacco giant to regain market share from vaping, as cigarette sales continue to decline.
Philip Morris International and Altria are not alone in big-tobacco’s attempt to take over or destroy the vaping industry, as back in 2012, e-cigarette manufacturer Blu was acquired by the Lorillard Tobacco Company for an estimated $145 million. However, between their smokeless initiative and growing control over vaping giant Juul Labs, there is reason to worry that big tobacco is becoming more aggressive in their attempt to take over the vaping industry.
Corporate consolidation is a growing problem both in the United States and internationally, that reduces competition and negatively impacts the end consumer. It is imperative for lawmakers to properly research and regulate these untested devices, review existing regulations surrounding vaping and the vaping industry, as well as prevent further corporate expansion through mergers and acquisitions by these multinational tobacco giants.
Would you consider trying a smokeless tobacco device? Do you think this is just big tobacco’s attempt to compete with vaping? We’d love to know what you think in the comments below, don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest vaping news!
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