PMFTC Inc., an affiliate of Philip Morris International (PMI), opened its first five IQOS stores in Metro Manila last month to provide smoke-free alternatives to adult Filipino smokers who would otherwise continue to use cigarettes.
PMFTC President Denis Gorkun said the opening of the five IQOS stores marked a significant step towards achieving the company’s vision of a smoke-free future in the country.
“PMFTC’s vision is to help adult smokers, who would otherwise continue to smoke, to move away from cigarettes as quickly as possible and switch to a better alternative,” he said.
The company said the IQOS tobacco heating system provides Filipino adult smokers 21 years old and above better alternatives to combustible cigarettes. The innovative product includes an electronic device called IQOS that is used to heat tobacco sticks under the HEETS brand. The tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper are subjected to IQOS HeatControl technology that heats tobacco instead of burning it to deliver the taste of real tobacco.
PMFTC said the first five IQOS stores opened at Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City; SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City; SM Southmall in Las Piñas City; Estancia Mall in Pasig City; and Glorietta Mall in Makati City. The stores carry PMI’s line of smoke-free products, devices, heat sticks and a full range of accessories.
PMI, the Switzerland-based parent company of PMFTC, has invested more than US$7 billion on research, development and production capabilities to create smoke-free products such as IQOS, which are now available in several countries.
On Jul. 7, the United States Food and Drugs Administration authorized the marketing of IQOS and heat sticks in the US with a modified exposure claim, adding that such issuance is appropriate for the promotion of public health.
IQOS is the first heated tobacco product to receive an exposure modification order in the US.
Gorkun said the US FDA decision shows that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product compared to cigarettes and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking.
“We see smoke-free products as an opportunity to reduce the smoking incidence in the Philippines for the benefit of the public health and society at large,” Gorkun said.
PMFTC said IQOS is specifically aimed at adult smokers. To prevent the youth from having access to IQOS, the company is implementing age verification and access restriction to ensure that only legal age consumers 21 years old and above will have access to the stores, the e-commerce website, and the IQOS products.
The IQOS stores adhere to the Good Conversion Practices which is a global standard observed across PMI to ensure that access to the device and heat sticks is only limited to adult consumers 21 years old and above, who would otherwise continue to consume tobacco products or other nicotine-containing products.
IQOS stores will specifically require customers to present a valid government-issued ID before any product is handed to them.
PMFTC said it aims to help the 16 million Filipino smokers to have access to better alternatives such as IQOS. This is also expected to reduce smoking incidence globally, as the World Health Organization predicted that the number of smokers would remain above a billion by 2025.
“The best thing a smoker can do is to quit cigarettes and nicotine products entirely. But the hard reality is there will be adults who would continue to smoke. For those who don’t choose to quit, we now have a product that does not burn tobacco,” PMFTC Communications Director Dave Gomez said.
Gomez said public health experts agree that burning or combustion is the main problem that made people sick from smoking. “Nicotine although not risk-free and is addictive, is not the main cause of smoking-related diseases. It’s the smoke,” Gomez said.
About 60 percent of Filipino adult smokers are willing to try smoke-free alternatives as long as they are made commercially available and meet quality production standards, according to a study commissioned by PMFTC.
About 11 million smokers globally have already switched to IQOS.
Gorkun said that unlike cigarettes, IQOS does not burn tobacco and therefore produces no smoke and no ash. It produces aerosol that dissipates more quickly than cigarette smoke. “As IQOS produces less lingering smell than cigarettes, it is less likely to bother people around you,” he said.
HEETS were initially made available to legal age users 21 years old and above on Apr. 24, through select tobacconists/retail stores such as FUMA, Lighters Galore, Green Puff and DJ Shop in Metro Manila.
The heat sticks were also made available in select 7/11 branches in Metro Manila last Aug. 7. The IQOS.COM website was launched where the IQOS devices, as well as the heat sticks and device accessories, were offered on Jun. 5.