For over a century, Philip Morris International Inc. has made a mint and a name for itself selling tobacco-related products, most notably cigarettes.
Though the company originally began as a single shop located on Bond Street in 19th century London, it has since moved to Switzerland and snapped up nearly half of the world’s tobacco brands.
It also became the face of rugged American individualism with its 45-year-long Marlboro Man campaign, but that savvy bit of marketing ended up ironically undermining the company. Why? Most of the cowboys who appeared in the ads ended up dying of tobacco-related illnesses.
In 2018, though, Philip Morris seems to have taken note of the fundamental flaw in selling a product that ultimately kills its most loyal customers.
So for its New Year’s resolution, the company has pledged to give up traditional cigarettes.
“No cigarette company has done anything like this before,” said copy from a recent U.K. ad campaign. “You might wonder if we really mean it.”
The company has offered more than three billion reasons for its sincerity by investing approximately $3.4 billion in “smoke free alternatives,” products that allegedly deliver the taste and rush smokers crave with fewer health risks. Its biggest new product is an electronic cigarette dubbed the iQOS.
Unlike vaping, which aerosolizes a liquid, the iQOS uses traditional tobacco. But Philip Morris contends that its heat-not-burn technology cuts down on the toxic compounds that can cause cancer and other illnesses.
Heat-not-burn cigarettes have been around for 30 years, never quite catching on in popularity.
Yet given the rise in popularity of other smokeless alternatives, Philip Morris seems to hope that iQOS will catch on this time around.
“Providing less harmful alternatives to smokers who would otherwise not quit is a common-sense approach to public health, embraced by a growing number of experts and health authorities worldwide,” the company said in a statement.
“Today, science and technology allow us to provide smokers with better alternatives to cigarettes.”
However, experts are skeptical about claims stating that iQOS impacts users’ health less than regular cigarettes.
Reuters reported that an independent investigation into company-funded research turned up numerous clinical slip ups and irregularities.
The iQOS is already being sold internationally. The FDA is expected to determine this year whether or not the product can be marketed in the United States.
Only time will tell if Philip Morris has truly gotten serious about giving up cigarettes for good. But the only proven way that smokers can heal their health is to stop the habit themselves — right now.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.