Tobacco giant backs puffing regulation, but wants heat sticks split from ciggies

Azril Annuar


Managing director of Philip Morris Malaysia Kang Tae Koo said the tobacco company supports regulations on e-cigarettes, but said regulators should acknowledge there are now products available that pose different health risks to smokers. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Philip Morris Malaysia wants the government to treat its smoke-free IQOS heat sticks as a separate category from normal tobacco products like cigarettes and even vape.

Its managing director Kang Tae Koo told a media briefing last week that the tobacco company supports regulations on e-cigarettes, but said regulators should acknowledge there are now products available that pose different health risks to smokers.

“The talk about new regulations coming in and I think the key point for us, and we continue dialogue on this front, is that regulators acknowledge the difference in the different product categories.

“Products under these categories can’t be like cigarettes. Similarly with e-cigarettes. If tobacco laws understand these categories and have appropriate regulation, it will allow us to communicate with consumers. That is what we want to pursue,” said Kang.

He said that if e-cigarettes could be marketed properly, it “should be offered” as an alternative smoke-free device for smokers.

Kang told reporters the smokeless IQOS heat sticks is less harmful compared to normal cigarettes where tobacco is burnt within the paper roll-ups and create smoke that is breathed into the lungs.

He explained that the heat stick warms up the liquid tobacco content, which reduces the intake of harmful chemicals during the puffing process.

Kang acknowledged that it is better to quit the habit altogether, but said the IQOS heat stick is an alternative to hardcore smokers, or those who do not want to give up smoking.

Kang added that the goal of Philip Morris is to convert all regular smokers to pick up its IQOS product while slowly phasing out its normal cigarette lines. 

He said the US tobacco maker has successfully converted more than 50,000 Malaysian smokers to take up the IQOS.

He said that the product will also be cheaper as its sales volume grows.

He added that as more smokers turn to the IQOS, cigarette consumption will also go down.

“Globally we are converting many factories to produce heat sticks,” he said.

The tobacco giant aims at achieving a 30 per cent conversion rate by 2025, with 40 million cigarette smokers worldwide taking up IQOS instead of roll-ups.

The government, Kang asserted, plays a key role where regulatory work is much needed to ensure a “smoke-free” future.

“When we phase out conventional cigarettes really depends on whether the environment is ready to allow products like this to be offered to adult smokers. It is not just up to us only. We are not the only market in Malaysia.

“So unless the government decides to ban cigarettes and allow only alternatives like the IQOS — and we would support that decision — it is not about us phasing out, it has to be about the regulatory environment,” he added.

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