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News Article

Why is Marlboro Proposing to Eliminate Cigarettes by 2030?

By Alessa Flores | Wed, 10/28/2020 - 17:24

Philip Morris Mexico, a Philip Morris International subsidiary, leading manufacturer and distributor of tobacco products and parent company of Marlboro, announced yesterday that it plans to phase out cigarettes in Mexico and promote instead its IQOS tobacco heater. This is the first smoke-free electronic cigar and the only electronic nicotine product to be approved by the US FDA as a modified risk tobacco product (MRTP). 

IQOs Photo

Philip Morris International, which also manages the brands Delicados, Benson & Hedges, Chesterfield and Faros, stressed that the IQOS is fundamentally different from cigarettes and a better option for adults who would otherwise continue to smoke. Andrzej Dabrowski, General Director of Philip Morris Mexico, asked local authorities to support the introduction of new technologies like the IQOS. "The participation of regulatory authorities, legislators and consumers is necessary. If we all dialogue and take science into consideration, cigarettes will have very little time left in Mexico," explained Dabrowski in an interview with El Financiero.

According to Philip Morris International and the FDA, the IQOS heats tobacco but does not burn it, so it significantly reduces the production of harmful chemicals. “Scientific studies have shown that switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system significantly reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals,” explains Philip Morris International. The company highlighted that the differences between combustion and heating make a different regulation for e-cigars fundamental. In April 2019, the FDA authorized the 1QOS for sale in the US.

However, there are conflicting views on whether electronic cigarettes are less harmful than regular ones. During the forum Healthy Taxes in Times of COVID-19: Adjustment to the Tobacco Tax, Dr. Sebastian Rodriguez, a pulmonologist from the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER), mentioned that patients who smoke and use electronic cigarettes to quit end up using both products in most cases. This situation does not contribute to the health of smokers but harms them even more.

Another solution to reduce tobacco consumption has been to tax it. In 2013, cigarettes were taxed at 75 percent on their retail price, including VAT, with the goal of reducing demand. With the arrival of electronic cigarettes, authorities are considering other strategies.

Seven months ago, the Ministry of Economy banned the import of vaporizers and electronic cigarettes. However, instead of discouraging their use, the ban increased it. According to Federal Deputy Lorenia Valles, the ban strengthened the illegal sale of these products, which led to a proposal for a reform to the General Law on Tobacco Control and the Special Tax on Production and Services to regulate their sale. This proposal includes the regulation of Electronic Systems for Nicotine Administration (SEAN), Similar Systems Without Nicotine (SSSN) and Heated Tobacco Products (PTC), such as Philip Morris' IQOS.

The tobacco industry grew in sales from MX$878 million (US$41.4 million) to MX$1.25 billion (US$58.7 million) between May 2015 and March 2019, according to INEGI. Furthermore, with a 64.2 percent share and a production of over 26 billion cigarettes per year, Philip Morris has the largest share of the Mexican market. In second place is British American Tobacco (owner of Pall Mall and Lucky Strike) with 29.3 percent of the market and production of almost 22 billion units and in third place is Japan Tobacco (owner of Camel) with 6.6 percent of the market, according to Euromonitor.

PAHO/WHO estimates that the number of smokers in Mexico has increased from 9 million to 13 million in less than two decades. Smoking-related diseases kill more than 53,000 people every year or 147 every day, representing 10 percent of the total deaths in the country. While WHO explained that the evidence is still unclear on whether e-cigarettes help people to quit smoking, there is evidence that people end up combining both products. 

WHO had three comments for governments considering regulating e-cigarettes. First, there is not enough information to assess the real health impact and potential health risks of long-term use of electronic cigarettes. Second, e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and nicotine, which is highly addictive. Third, the majority of those using e-cigarettes are children and adolescents.

Alessa Flores Alessa Flores Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst