ACCORDING to the World Health Organisation (WHO), counselling and medication can more than double a tobacco user’s chance of successfully quitting.
However, only 23 countries provide comprehensive cessation services with full or partial cost-coverage to assist tobacco users to quit – representing just 32% of the world’s population.
For Malaysia, the central focus is on the new anti-smoking bill called the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023.
While the bill is being debated in Parliament, adult smokers may not have access to the information or tools they need to either quit or switch to a less harmful alternative.
Following through on its vision for a smoke-free world, Philip Morris Malaysia (PMM) has made proactive strides in converting traditional cigarette smokers towards smoke-free alternatives, with a strong emphasis on harm reduction.
Since 2018, the company’s focus has been on mitigating the impact of cigarette combustion on individuals and society.
“We started investing in smoke-free alternatives 30 years ago,” says PMM managing director Naeem Shahab Khan.
“We launched the IQOS 10 years ago worldwide and it arrived in Malaysia five years ago. To attain our vision of a smoke-free world is to also make Malaysia smoke-free.”
According to Naeem, for smokers to transition or quit successfully, they need access to information and also alternative products which serve as tools that enable them to transition to smoke-free alternatives.
PMM has developed the IQOS ILUMA line following their learnings from Japan, where the smoking rates amongst adults dropped by 44% after the introduction of IQOS devices. Their latest addition, the IQOS ILUMA, was launched in Malaysia on Nov 2.
Naeem says it is important to not only make sure that adult smokers know about alternatives but also make it accessible so that they can easily look for smoke-free alternatives and make the switch.
“Today, there are approximately 27.4 million IQOS users. An estimated 72% of which – approximately 19.7 million – had switched to IQOS and stopped smoking,” he says.
For the company, the development of innovative, safer options for adult smokers goes hand-in-hand with collaborating with local authorities and public health organisations to prevent smoking initiation through education and awareness campaigns.
Technological advancements have been instrumental in the journey towards smoke-free alternatives.
The introduction of IQOS ILUMA exemplifies this progress, representing a new generation of “heat, not burn” devices.
Independent studies have shown that “heat, not burn” devices – such as IQOS devices – “on average emit 95% lower levels of harmful chemicals compared to (traditional) cigarettes,” says Naeem.
The commitment to science and innovation lies at the core of harm reduction, providing adult smokers with less harmful choices.
It harnesses induction-heating technology to reduce risks associated with traditional smoking while addressing user concerns in their transition to alternative products.
“We have taken into account the feedback from users regarding the cumbersome cleaning, the incidences of broken blades and insufficient vapour,” says PMM commercial operations director Mazlan Jala Musa.
By addressing these challenges, PMM aims to tackle the psychosocial aspects of smoking and make the transition to less harmful alternatives more accessible for adult smokers.
“The new Smartcore Induction System eliminates the need for a blade, unlike the previous generation of IQOS devices that use resistive heating technology,” he says.
The goal is to achieve “as close to the actual experience as possible, with the lowest risk possible”.
Punitive and prohibitive laws will inevitably alienate vulnerable groups and leave the current adult smoking population with no alternatives and possibly drive black market sales.
While adherence to evolving regulations and guidelines is the main imperative to reduce initiation, facilitation of harm reduction is the linchpin in tackling smoking prevalence in the country by providing adult smokers an alternative to traditional cigarettes.
PMM’s fifth-year milestone in the journey to a smoke-free Malaysia signifies a path rooted in the principles of harm reduction and innovation where the provision of safer alternatives for adult smokers is based on sound scientific principles.