E-cigarette ban: Phillip Morris develops an alternative to fill the gap

e-cigarettes (Photo: Reuters)
Smokers, don’t stub out all hope. E-cigarettes are banned but it’s still possible to find a less harmful alternative because global giant Phillip Morris has developed an alternative that may be coming to an outlet near you once it has been commercially launched.

The heated tobacco product does not involve use of electronic systems like e- cigarettes and consequently cannot fall under the ban imposed by the government on September 18. Nor does it involve combustion of tobacco, which means it reduces the harmful effect of smoking traditional cigarettes.  

Phillip Morris is open to positioning the product as an alternative to cigarettes and bringing it under the scrutiny of the Cigarettes and the Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) but with certain conditions. The product, which is under trial, looks similar to a cigarette in that it has a carbon tip which simply has to be lit up so that heat is transferred from the carbon tip to the tobacco.  

Due to a distance between the carbon tip and the tobacco and other proprietary features, it results in the tobacco heat never exceeding 350 degrees centigrade. Phillip Morris says its research shows that the product while giving the same delivery of nicotine to smokers, does not produce the toxic and carcinogenic effects of cigarette smoking known as harmful and potential harmful constituents or HPHC.

HPHC happens when tobacco is burnt at over 400 degrees centigrade. The company’s studies have shown that there is on average a 90-95 per cent decrease in HPHC. 

Speaking to Business Standard, Alexander Reisch, managing director, Phillip Morris India said: “We are here to stay in India for the long term. We have various alternatives after the ban, one of which is the heated tobacco product which we have developed and it does not have any electronics system, is less harmful than the cigarette, but can be priced competitively within the same range.”  

He said the company will continue to provide scientific information to lobby for a reversal of the government’s e-cigarette ban. Currently an ordinance, the ban has yet to be passed into law by Parliament.

Reisch said that while Phillip Morris has no issue with the new product being broadly regulated by COTPA, it will try to persuade the government to tweak the rules and create a separate category within the legislation for heated products. 

That way, the company will be able to communicate in the packaging the message that the product is less harmful than normal cigarettes in order to educate consumers on the difference. Under current law, tobacco companies cannot advertise and have to put in pictorial warnings on the packs – images that include a skull and cross bones and warnings of the harmful effect of smoking.

If things go according to plan, Phillip Morris might be selling the new product through Godfrey Phillips India in which it has a 25.1 per cent stake with K K Modi. It already sells its famous Marlboro brand though a JV with Modi’s in India.

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