Philip Morris pushes IQOS ahead of vape ban

Retailers can adapt to changing times with heat-not-burn device, says manufacturer

The IQOS Iluma has overtaken the Marlboro cigarette brand for Philip Morris International.
The IQOS Iluma has overtaken the Marlboro cigarette brand for Philip Morris International.

WITH the ban on disposable vapes less than a year away, retailers must grasp the significance of this pivotal moment and adjust their nicotine category strategies accordingly.

That’s the view of John Rennie, director of commercial operations at Philip Morris Limited (PML) in the UK and Ireland, who was keen to highlight the firm’s heat-not-burn IQOS Iluma device.

He said: “By incorporating innovative products like IQOS Iluma and Terea tobacco sticks into their offerings, retailers not only navigate these shifts but also thrive in the emerging smoke-free era.

“Recognising that no single smoke-free product can cater to every smoker’s preference, embracing a multi-category approach becomes indispensable for those retailers investing in their smoke-free portfolio.”

Rennie claimed that, over several years, cigarette sales had fallen in both the convenience channel and grocery multiples.

He pointed to the fact that, when the Philip Morris International (PMI) end-of-year 2023 financial results were revealed, IQOS had surpassed Marlboro in global net revenues – becoming the company’s No.1 worldwide nicotine brand.

The director said: “This may sound like self-interest – a moment for us on our own journey to becoming smoke-free, but this announcement marks a turning point that anyone listing tobacco and nicotine products should acknowledge and respond to.

“While it took Marlboro 115 years to establish its dominance, IQOS has surpassed the world’s most valuable cigarette brand in less than a decade since its launch.

“In the UK, as with many other markets, the growth of heated tobacco has been a sharp contrast to the decline in cigarette sales.”

Rennie said Nielsen data showed that, nationally, the percentage of convenience retailers selling PML’s Terea and Heets tobacco sticks had risen by 42% in two years, while cigarette sales declined by 34% during the period.

This trend was also reflected in grocery multiples, where Nielsen figures revealed sales of IQOS kits grew by 269% between September 2021 and December 2023 but cigarette sales fell 27%.

He said: “The demand for heated tobacco products will continue to grow as more adult smokers seek better alternatives.”

Globally, the total number of adult IQOS users at the end of 2023 was estimated at about 28.6million (up by 3.7million versus December 2022), of which around 20.8million had switched to IQOS and stopped smoking.

Explaining IQOS’s popularity, Rennie claimed the device had 95% less harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes  and enabled savings of up to £3,000 a year for ex-smokers.

He added: “The innovative bladeless technology offers adult nicotine users an affordable, all-in-one tobacco experience without any smoke or ash, and less smell than cigarettes for a seamless and cleaner experience.

“It’s these attributes, coupled with evolving preferences among adult smokers and nicotine users, which have elevated IQOS beyond Marlboro.”