Philip Morris, one of the big five tobacco companies, has introduced an electronic alternative to conventional smoking. The tobacco giant behind the iconic brand Marlboro, claims the ‘Marlboro HeatStick provides the nicotine hit but without 90% of the harmful by-products that are produced by smoking.

Initial studies relating to the health benefits of the new products have been encouraging; however doubt has been cast on the legitimacy of these findings, due to the data coming directly from the company itself. Historically Philip Morris has not proven reliable in providing objective analysis on its own products.

E Cig V Heat Stick

The technology behind the 'HeatStick' is not altogether dissimilar to e-Cigarette products; the most significant difference appears to be that the new product contains tobacco, which is heated instead of burned-much in the same way as the 'atomizing' chamber technology used already in established smoking alternatives.

The recent product announcement has wider implications, tax revenue by start-up e-cigarette brands cut into tax revenue generated by the sales of tobacco products. Almost 90% of those profits are retained by the government in tax levied - a former insider to the tobacco industry BJ Cunningham characterised tobacco companies as essentially operating as ‘tax collectors’.

In the UK, we see a trend of a shrinking proportion of young adults taking up smoking, the unveiling of the tobacco substitute by Philip Morris can be interpreted as way of combating this threat to its sales, as well as a push to get its foot in the door on a growing market in tobacco alternatives.

Meanwhile, the e-cigarette industry shows no signs of shrinking

The new product unveiled by Philip Morris has wider implications. It shows an established industry striving to curb what has proved to be an existential threat to conventional smoking. Conventional smoking habits show no signs of abating in developing countries - where legislation surrounding the marketing of tobacco is less stringent than in Europe.

However, e-cigarettes have become an increasingly common sight on UK high streets and reflect a changing tide in attitudes towards smoking and tobacco alternatives. Product development in a gigantic corporation is always going to be a drawn out and costly process, which reports of £1.2billion being spent on the HeatStick. The tobacco industries efforts to make their mark on a market that has already established itself, may prove to be an opportunity missed.