Heating Up Heat-Not-Burn

    Philip Morris International and other tobacco companies are making a big push into alternatives to combustible cigarettes. How will heat-not-burn fit into the harm-reduction landscape?

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    Conley sees heat-not-burn as a “tsunami” that will reshape the industry, but he says there will need to be a mass education for convincing jaded cigarette smokers to try yet another new alternative to combustibles. “There’s a lot of work to be done in that area,” he notes. “As people learn about heat-not-burn tobacco, it will greatly alter the landscape of the vapor category as a whole in a very good way.”

    Retailers agree that heat-not-burn manufacturers will need to build awareness. “Our customers are not very aware of the heat-not-burn technology,” says Collett, who adds that he is personally eager to try the products. “I believe the key to success of the heat-not-burn technology and iQOS is receiving the reduced-risk ruling. The ability to market the product as a ‘safer’ alternative will be significant in sparking the interest of consumers to initially try the product. Consumer retention will depend on the quality of the experience and how similar it is to a traditional cigarette.”

    Understanding the importance of helping consumers along the learning curve, Fuma International sends company representatives to retail shops interested in engaging consumers one on one about its products. “Consumers are understandably skeptical, so you can only do so much by marketing over the Internet,” says Conley. “It helps to have a living, breathing human being they can interact with to learn about the products. And tobacco outlets love it—it’s a great way for them to guard against having the vape shop down the road take their customers away forever.”

    The FDA’s push to reduce nicotine levels in combustible products will also motivate consumers to seek out alternatives. “That wheel is in motion, and everyone knows it’s coming,” says Conley. “For consumers, it’s one of those things that will cause pain but open them up to a world of possibilities.

    This story first appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

    Story Jennifer Gelfand, editor-in-chief of Tobacco Business Magazine