Cigarette smokers in T&T will one day be able to get their nicotine fix in a healthier, smoke-free way.

That is if Philip Morris’ dream of a smoke-free future comes true Andrés Espinal, the director of external affairs at PMI has stated.

PMI has announced that it is committing to a major business transformation by moving away from cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products and toward healthier alternatives for nicotine delivery

“PMI is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company and its shareholder,” the company stated.

During his presentation of the national budget Finance Minister Colm Imbert said that the government is of the view that there is a need to curb the consumption of tobacco.

“Worldwide, tobacco use is the single largest cause of preventable death, killing around six million people every year. Tobacco use accounts for one in 10 adult deaths worldwide and Tobacco kills up to half of all users,” Imbert said.

“It is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths in the world. Unchecked, tobacco-related deaths will increase to more than eight million a year by 2030, and 80 per cent of those deaths will occur in the developing world,” he said,

Imbert said this situation brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and the wider society.

“We are currently spending $500,000 per year to treat just one lung cancer patient. For too long, we have had to deal with the negative consequences associated with the high consumption of these products,” Imbert said.

But these comments have not scared off PMI.

In fact, they agree with Imbert.

“We agree and acknowledge that smoking is harmful, and the safest option is to quit tobacco and nicotine altogether. We would like to reinforce that our global vision as a company is to build a smoke-free future based on scientific evidence,” PMI stated.

The World Health Organisation has estimated that there will be over a billion smokers by 2025.

“With so many people choosing to smoke, it makes sense that they should have better alternatives to cigarettes. Why would anyone deny them this opportunity?” PMI stated.

“A few important steps are needed to make this common-sense approach a reality for millions of smokers. First, you need to invent better alternatives to cigarettes. Second, these alternatives should be appealing to adult smokers: they should deliver a taste and sensory experience that leads adult smokers, who would otherwise continue to smoke, to switch. We can achieve a significant public-health benefit only when a large number of these smokers switch from cigarettes to better products,” PMI stated.

In July, the US Food and Drug Administration authorised the marketing of PMI’s “IQOS Tobacco Heating System” as modified risk tobacco products (MRTPs).

The tobacco is heated instead of being burnt.

The tobacco in a cigarette burns at temperatures in excess of 600°C, generating smoke that contains high levels of harmful chemicals.

Instead, the tobacco is heated to much lower temperatures, up to 350°C, without combustion, fire, ash, or smoke.

And, because the tobacco is heated and not burned, the levels of harmful chemicals are said to significantly reduced compared to cigarette smoke. However, THS is not risk-free and delivers nicotine which is addictive.

“Through the modified risk tobacco product application process, the FDA aims to ensure that information directed at consumers about reduced risk or reduced exposure from using a tobacco product is supported by scientific evidence and understandable,” said Mitch Zeller, JD, director of the FDA’s Centre for Tobacco Products.

“Data submitted by the company shows that marketing these particular products with the authorised information could help addicted adult smokers transition away from combusted cigarettes and reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals, but only if they completely switch,” Zeller stated.

The FDA said it will closely monitor how IQOS is used by consumers to determine if these products meet this potential and do not cause increased use among youth.

“It is important to note that these products are not safe, so people, especially young people, who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using them or any other tobacco product,” it stated.

The IQOS Tobacco Heating System includes the electronic IQOS device that generates a nicotine-containing aerosol by heating tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper.

So far the available evidence states that the IQOS system heats tobacco but does not burn it.

This therefore significantly reduces the production of potentially harmful chemicals.

Scientific studies have shown that switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system significantly reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals, it stated.

PMI currently has Marlboro and L&M cigarettes available in T&T.

The company said it has been making inroads in the local market.

In an attempt to constrain the smoking habit in the country, Imbert said duties will be introduced as disincentives.

Imbert said there will be an the increase of excise duty by 20 per cent on locally manufactured tobacco products; an increase in customs duty by 20 per cent on imported tobacco from the Common Market Origin; and an adjustment of the customs duty payable on tobacco products imported into T&T from extra-regional sources to have it receive equal treatment to that of the common market.

These measures will take effect from Tuesday, Imbert stated.

“We understand and support the objectives of the T&T government to curb smoking. However, PMI supports reasonable tax measures that strike a balance between achieving public health goals and ensuring that adult consumers do not turn to the black market instead of legal products. Evidence has shown that disproportionate tax increases could result in the acceleration of illicit trade which is already a growing issue in T&T,” PMI stated.

“It’s important that industry and authorities work together in order to avoid the proliferation of illicit trade and contraband cigarettes in the markets. That being said, we will work closely with authorities to avoid and tackle the illicit trade,” PMI stated.

Cigarettes are among the most common illicitly traded products in the world.

And, according to reports, T&T is robbed of $30 million a year because of this illicit trade.

So as a result there have been stringent measures in place to try and deal with this issue.

Unfortunately, PMI’s Marlboro and L&M were being illegally seized by the authorities as a result.

PMI stated, however, this situation has since been rectified.