Krishna Prasad, head of human studies at British American Tobacco, demonstrates a smoking analyser. Philip Morris launched its latest smoke-free product in South Africa yesterday. Photo: Bloomberg
JOHANNESBURG – New York-based Philip Morris International (PMI) this week took the fight to rivals British American Tobacco (BAT) in the race to win hearts in the growing new-generation products industry with a launch of its latest smoke-free product in South Africa.

PMI yesterday launched the latest version of its “smoke-free product”, IQOS 3 in South Africa. The product offers adult smokers a better alternative to a cigarette. The industry has called on the government to better regulate the roll-out of reduced risk products (RRPs) to increase their uptake.

Marcelo Nico, the managing director at Philip Morris South Africa, said regulation was required to provide clarity and clear the path for a roll-out plan of RRPs.

“We see smoke-free products as an opportunity for harm reduction and are open to discussions with the public health community globally and in South Africa. The best thing a person can do is quit all forms of tobacco and nicotine altogether,” Nico said.

In South Africa, e-cigarettes are not covered by the Tobacco Products Control Act, or by the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act.

National Council Against Smoking director Savera Kalideen said the tobacco companies had seen vaping products as a way to remain sustainable.

Lung disease

"Safer is not the same as safe. These products can still cause lung disease. What we have found is that smokers end up smoking both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes. We support regulation, because these products cause health harm,” Kalideen said. The US has taken the lead globally in clamping down on the use of menthol.

Shares in BAT, the largest listed tobacco company in the world, last month went up in smoke after a report suggested that the US Food and Drug Administration could ban menthol cigarettes. According to analysts from Barclays menthol accounts for 36percent of the US market and generates around a quarter of BAT’s profit.

Johnny Moloto, the head of external affairs at BAT Southern Africa, said millions of consumers across the globe were switching to alternative nicotine products that had the potential to significantly reduce their risk.

“It is important for the government to recognise this and provide a regulatory framework that allows these new products to be marketed effectively. Consumer safety must also be ensured by proper product regulation,” Moloto said. Analysts last year deemed BAT’s $49.4billion (R676bn) mega merger with Reynolds as a final act in industry consolidation and had created a serious global player in the growing vapour market industry. The deal also saw BAT leapfrog PMI as the biggest listed tobacco company in the world.

Clyde Rossouw, the co-head of quality at Investec Asset Management, in a research note said the long-term sustainability of tobacco businesses rested on developing more socially acceptable tobacco products.

BAT’s shares closed 1.40percent lower on the JSE on Tuesday at R481.50.

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