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PMI clears the smoke with a vision for a smoke-free future in SA

With the growth of smoke-free technology, there lies a remarkable opportunity to steer South Africa (and the continent) towards a cigarette-free future. At the forefront of this transition stands Philip Morris International (PMI) – the number one smoke-free tobacco company in the world and home to iconic brands like Marlboro and Chesterfield.

Having just launched its latest smoke-free heated-tobacco device in South Africa, the IQOS ILUMA, Smoke-Free Product Director at Philip Morris South Africa (PMSA) Jonathan Kwak says PMI is committed to walking this transformative journey hand-in-hand with South Africa as PMI is doing in 84 markets around the world.

“Our dedication is not merely a corporate endeavour but a deep commitment to providing better alternatives to smoking,” says Kwak. “South Africa is currently ranked amongst the top countries in the world in terms of smoking prevalence[1], so there is a lot that can be done to switch adult smokers to reduced risk products like IQOS, which uses a heat-not-burn technology, and to oral nicotine products like ZYN.”

Figure 1:  Jonatha Kwak

While the best option for anyone is to quit tobacco and nicotine products completely, research shows that many don’t. Kwak says this is why PMI is transitioning its business to alternative smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products that, while not risk-free as they contain nicotine which is addictive, still offer adult smokers who would otherwise continue a better choice than continued smoking.

“We would rather adult smokers who continue to smoke opt for smoke-free products like IQOS or ZYN, rather than cigarettes.”

For over a decade, PMI has invested extensively in research and development, leveraging cutting-edge technology and scientific innovation to create less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes. With an investment exceeding US$12.5 billion to develop, scientifically substantiate and commercialise innovative smoke-free products, PMI has brought forth numerous breakthrough products that offer adult smokers a compelling choice.

One such innovation is IQOS, introduced in South Africa in 2017 with its blade heating system. Since its inception, PMI has continuously refined and innovated the IQOS platform to address consumer needs and elevate the heated tobacco experience. The latest addition to this portfolio is the introduction of the bladeless IQOS ILUMA which uses induction to heat, but not burn the tobacco. Kwak believes the latest model will accelerate the conversion of adult smokers in South Africa who would otherwise continue to smoke, while elevating the experience of current IQOS users with enhanced technology.

For him, the expansion of IQOS and other smoke-free alternatives like ZYN nicotine pouches, marks a significant stride towards a smoke-free South Africa. By offering a diverse portfolio of smoke-free products, Kwak says this addresses the varied needs of adult smokers, providing them with superior alternatives while providing nicotine to those adult users who continue to seek it.

“Recognising the sizable segment of dual and poly users of smoke-free products, we anticipate continued growth in South Africa as we help drive the transition towards a smoke-free future,” adds Kwak.

Looking ahead, PMI’s vision within the business aligns closely with its grander goal of replacing cigarettes with science-based smoke-free products. With a publicly visible commitment to tobacco harm reduction, PMI aims to accelerate the end of cigarette smoking. By providing adult consumers with access to information and innovative smoke-free products, Kwak says PMI endeavours to facilitate the transition from cigarettes to a better choice for adult smokers who choose to continue smoking.

Over the next five years, PMI plans to further advance its mission of driving towards a smoke-free future. This entails continued investment and innovation in smoke-free products, including IQOS and ZYN nicotine pouches.

“By staying at the forefront of technological advancements, we want to empower adult smokers with viable alternatives to cigarettes, ultimately contributing to public health,” says Kwak.

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