Over the past two years, we have seen big tobacco companies rushing to join the electronic cigarette industry in hopes of increasing profits and cashing in on the growing vaping movement. Phillip Morris International was the last of the tobacco giants to take the leap, but now the Marlboro-maker is set to launch a new ecig that is completely different from anything else on the market.
This week, Phillip Morris announced plans to release their new HeatStick later this year. It will initially be available in Italy and Japan, but it could potentially spread to retail outlets in the United States in the future. The HeatStick is loosely based on the design of an electronic cigarette, but there is one major difference – it contains real tobacco. Phillip Morris insists that this is a “reduced-risk” product because the tobacco is heated instead of burned. There is no combustion, so the company believes that this drastically reduces the health risk associated with the tobacco contents.
Using real tobacco is a big risk and it’s a first for the vaping industry. Most people switch to ecigs with the intention to abandon tobacco, so they could be hesitant to give the HeatStick a chance. Phillip Morris insists that using actual tobacco will be more appealing to smokers than the typical tobacco-flavored e-liquids. They feel so confident in the potential of this new line that they are branding it under the Marlboro name.
Marlboro is a major icon in the world of cigarettes and thousands of vapers spent years smoking this popular brand of cigarettes before switching to tobacco-free ecigs. If the HeatStick flops, it could tarnish the Marlboro name so this is definitely a gamble. We have never before seen a tobacco company market an ecig under the same brand name as cigarettes because it could create a conflict of interest. If the general population associates Marlboro with cancer-causing cigarettes, they might be hesitant to trust the same brand as a “harm reduction” option.
Phillip Morris International did not make this decision lightly and they have already invested over $2 billion in the HeatStick. For around a decade, the company has been working to develop a tobacco product that excludes combustion, but the earlier designs were not well accepted by smokers. However, executives feel confident that with the new ecig movement, today’s smokers are going to be more open to this option. The company expects to spend an additional $680 million to construct factories in Italy to handle product creation and distribution for the HeatStick.
Does it bother you that the HeatStick will contain tobacco? Would you be willing to try this product if it becomes available in your area?