Tobacco trendsetter Philip Morris International (PMI) has announced a new capital investment to convert a Greek cigarette plant over to production of Reduced-Risk Products (RRPs).
The move will see investment of 300 million Euros to upgrade the factory to a larger operation, due to the increased facility requirements of producing Heatsticks, a tobacco stick which is used with the “smoke free” IQOS unit.
Heatstick production at the Papastratos factory will begin in January 2018, making the third PMI facility to be given over to harm reduced products.
As is the case for vaping products at present, IQOS and Heatsticks cannot be legally sold in Australia, despite its launch in 2014, seeing overwhelming popularity in Japan. The product has also attracted widespread interest in the UK medical community, and an application for approval was lodged with the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this year.
Despite international interest, the product has already been banned in New Zealand, and recently Australian assistant health minister David Gillespie stated to Fairfax that PMI was unlikely to gain approval to sell the product in Australia under nicotine supply exemptions.
However, the minister also said that “further consideration of policy options to address heat-not-burn products may be considered in the context of a national response to e-cigarettes”.
The IQOS is an electric cigarette device which heats a plug of tobacco (the Heatstick) to a temperature of 300 degrees celcius. A conventional cigarette burns at temperatures up to 800 degrees. According to PMI, a substantial number of harmful chemicals found in tobacco are not burned by the IQOS, as the device cannot reach the correct combustible temperatures.
PMI regional President for the European Union Frederic de Wilde said the new investment was evidence of PMI’s drive towards a “smoke-free future”.
“We are encouraged by the 1.4 million smokers who have already switched to IQOS around the world, and we expect this momentum to continue,” he said.
“This facility will help enable us to meet growing demand from adult smokers.
“Our ambition is that one day potentially less harmful, smoke-free products replace cigarettes to the benefit of smokers, public health, and society at large.”
So far PMI has invested more than $US3 billion in research and development of the IQOS and Heatsticks, and says that it openly shares its scientific methodologies and findings for independent third-party review and verification.