Tobacco giant to phase out cigarettes in Japan in 10 years

Tobacco giant to phase out cigarettes in Japan in 10 years

Philip Morris counting on customers switching to alternative products

Two men smoke cigarettes in a designated space in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. (AFP Photo)
Two men smoke cigarettes in a designated space in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. (AFP Photo)

TOKYO: The tobacco giant Philip Morris plans to phase out conventional cigarettes in Japan within 10 years, the company’s new chief executive said on Friday.

The maker of Marlboro and other brands in 2016 announced a long-term goal to stop selling cigarettes and replace them with alternatives that it says are less harmful — but this is the first time it has given a clear deadline.

“We want Japan to be the first market” for the phase-out, CEO Jacek Olczak told the Nikkei business daily in an interview published in Japanese.

The company “will realise a smoke-free society in Japan within 10 years”, he said.

Philip Morris International is betting on its IQOS: a sort of short cigarette inserted into a device that heats the tobacco and releases a vapour.

Olczak told the Nikkei that the company “plans to introduce devices using new technologies”.

Japan, considered by some a smokers’ paradise, has long been an outlier in the developed world for cigarette use.

Under a law that came into effect in 2020, lighting up regular cigarettes is banned in most restaurants, while heated products are allowed while eating and drinking when certain conditions are met.

Japan’s government earns billions of dollars annually in cigarette tax revenue, and owns a one-third stake in Japan Tobacco, the world’s third largest tobacco company.

Smoking in the street is banned in many places under local regulations that impose hefty fines on violators.

Cigarettes cost only around 450 ($4) to 570 yen a pack and carry modest health warning labels.

Despite that, tobacco use in Japan has been falling, in line with a broader global trend.


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