In the world there are approximately 1 billion smokers, of which 5 million die each year. More than 600,000 do not smoke but are exposed to others´smoke. That's why the Tobacco Industry has been researching on less harmful products for a decade. Some have developed electronic cigarettes but others have proposed totally different devices. This is the case of iQOS, developed by Phillip Morris International (PMI), which instead of burning tobacco heats it and therefore generates no smoke or ash but a vapor when the consumer inhales it. Colombia is the first country in Latin America and one of the 20 in the world that sells this product.

According to PMI data, about 1.4 million Cigarette smokers have already switched to iQOS since their test run was launched in Nagoya, Japan and in Milan, Italy, in 2014.

How it works

The product, whose research had a cost of 3 billion dollars, consists of an electronic device with a mechanism to control the temperature at which the tobacco is heated. The tobacco units, called HEETS, are specially made for this product and instead of milled tobacco like the one seen in a conventional cigarette it has a rolled tobacco tape that when heated at controlled temperatures, quite below the levels of tobacco combustion, produces less toxicity.

The tendency of the industry is to form a broader portfolio with less harmful products and thus replace the traditional cigarette.

"That is the future. Smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products will replace cigarettes, "says Humberto Mora, PMI vice president in Colombia. He adds that people are increasingly aware of the harmful nature of smoking thanks to campaigns and legal regulations. But "it has been found that of the smokers who want to stop smoking, only 5 percent achieve it and that is where this substitution is an appealing possibility," says Mora.

The tobacco company ensures that by heating itself, this product will help smokers to reduce the number of toxins and harmful components produced during the combustion of cigarettes by 90 to 95 percent, many of them associated with heart disease and Cancer. It also generates less odour than conventional cigarettes, does not cause choking, increases blood pressure or affects air quality in indoor spaces.

This is demonstrated, according to its spokesmen, by the tests and research conducted by more than 430 scientists over several years.

What it lacks

However, the tobacco industry has many challenges ahead. One of them is to convince the authorities of the evidence that their studies have shown. In other countries activists like Deborah Arnott, head of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) have pointed out that there must be strong regulations towards these devices because after all, they are made by tobacco companies. "We need scientific evidence from independent sources to support any announcement from the tobacco industry," Arnott concludes.

Mora admits that there is a lot of mistrust of the information produced by the industry.

"That's why the idea is that an independent entity and the universities corroborate this information and that the regulators and the public know about it," he says. PMI submitted all scientific information to the FDA in December 2016 for modified risk tobacco products and a statement from the entity is expected this year.

They also expect regulations different from those of tobacco products because they believe they can not be in the same category. "That would be a mistake because they are totally different. It is the combustion that generates 8000 toxics and they produce a vapour so they have the potential to reduce the damage ", explains Mora.