Philip Morris Thinking “Beyond Nicotine”—PMI’s Sustainability Vision
June 22 saw the opening of the second day of the Global Forum on Nicotine 2023. Themed “tobacco harm reduction (THR) – the next decade”, scientists and scholars from companies, universities, NPOs, and research institutes presented the panels held in Marriot Hotel, Warsaw. Yvonne Khoo was one of them. As Philip Morris International’s Head of Scientific Engagement for East Asia, Australia & Duty-Free region, Yvonne tells 2FIRSTS about PMI’s vision on sustainability and THR product portfolio.
PMI’s Striving for Safer Alternatives
PMI's CEO Jacek Olczak recently suggested that “cigarettes belong to museums”. Yvonne explains that Jacek urged stakeholders to join PMI in transitioning from combustible cigarettes to reduced risk products, a safer alternative for smokers who won't quit.
"He highlighted the potential public health consequences of inaction with 1.1 billion smokers worldwide. PMI is developing scientifically backed products and sharing our research transparently. PMI has published annual integrated report since 2018, it outlines our commitment to sustainability and becoming a net positive company."
Yvonne then further elaborated on PMI’s initiatives for new technologies,
"Every smoke-free product is supported by comprehensive scientific research, including our heated tobacco product, IQOS."
Universal Goal, Localized Plans
When asked about whether PMI's sustainability strategy is a global goal or different for each region, Yvonne replies that PMI's integrated sustainability strategy applies globally, but tailored for each region's culture.
We adapt it to regional sensitivities when necessary. For instance, in Japan, a significant number of smokers switched to heated tobacco products, demonstrating societal impact. Data from the National Health and Morbidity Survey in Japan indicates a 7% decrease (20% - 13%) in smoking prevalence since the introduction of heated tobacco products to the country in 2018, aligning with the overall public health goal of reducing tobacco use. A study also found minimal heated tobacco product usage among school children, suggesting these products aren't attracting new users.
Japan serves as a clear example of the beneficial public health impact of introducing smoke-free products. "Japanese are hygiene-conscious and considerate of others, making heated tobacco products an ideal fit for transforming tobacco use there. This is a leading case study that others can learn from."
To achieve the overall sustainability goal, Yvonne believes that PMI’s making tailored product plans for different countries. As PMI operates globally, Yvonne said,
"We ensure markets marketing our products also commit to our sustainability initiatives. This includes recycling and take-back programs encouraged by local businesses or governments. These are indeed global initiatives."
From Multiple Nicotine Products to Beyond Nicotine
When asked about the role VEEBA, a vape brand under PMI, and other products like oral nicotine's role in PMI's sustainability, Yvonne answers that PMI believes in a multi-category smoke-free product platform to encourage as many smokers as possible to switch if they don't quit. This includes heated tobacco, e-cigarettes, and oral nicotine products, all falling under their sustainability initiative.
"We focus not only on minimal carbon impact production but also on sustainable usage and disposal, with initiatives like device recycling and used consumable collection programs."
Yvonne reiterated how crucial R&D is to PMI as a staff and a scientist in the company.
"Sustainability at PMI is underpinned by innovation and science, which is used to develop smoke-free products."
These products are scientifically assessed to provide comprehensive evidence that switching to them is potentially less harmful. “Since 2018, we've invested $10.7 billion in our transformation to a smoke-free future”.
Yvonne then introduced “The Cube” to 2FIRSTS. “‘The Cube is the nickname of our R&D facility in Neuchatel, Switzerland”. It’s home to more than 1,500 scientists, who contributed to more than 500 peer-reviewed research articles.
“Additionally, we have other facilities like our Vectura Fertin Pharma lab in Singapore, focusing on health and consumer wellness since the acquisition of a few pharmaceutical companies a few years back.”
“As a science communicator and scientist, I'm excited about how science is evolving in the company and the potential for communicating more about an innovation-based company,” Yvonne said.