Philip Morris CEO: We Might Stop Making Traditional Cigarettes Someday

Image courtesy of Eva_Deht

After decades of making money off brands like Marlboro, Philip Morris is looking to shift its focus away from traditional cigarettes and toward smokeless products. As part of that effort, the company’s CEO says it may stop making cigarettes altogether — eventually.

CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said as much during an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4 in the United Kingdom, where the company is launching a new heat-not-burn product, IQOS.

“There will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products… and sufficient awareness to start envisaging together with government a phaseout period for cigarettes, and I hope this time will come soon,” Calantzopoulos said.

It won’t happen immediately, however, as there is still a lot of demand for traditional tobacco products. But Calantzopoulos says the company is focused on moving away from cigarettes, admitting that those products “cause disease,” and notes that the company’s “primary responsibility”, once the technology is available, to commercialize less harmful alternatives.

“I think we’re transforming our company to achieve this,” he said. “We’re moving very massively our resources and the focus of the organization from our existing traditional business to the new one so, as far as we are concerned, we will do everything we can to accelerate the reaching of consumers to this product.”

The IQOS system — which Philip Morris has invested more than $3 billion in over the last decade — has a device that’s a little bit like an e-cigarette, which heats up mini tobacco sticks that are about half the size of a normal cigarette. Users heat up the sticks with their device and smoke without really smoking: the device is considered a hybrid between e-cigarettes and the analog type. Philip Morris says IQOS will be available in 35 countries in 2017.