Philip Morris International (PMI) is testing its iQOS heat-not-burn product in Russia, ECigIntelligence has confirmed. “We are indeed testing this novel product with a limited group of adult smokers in Moscow,” a PMI spokesperson said. The company is arguing to the Russian government that a new regulatory category, distinct from conventional tobacco, should be created for the product, said a local report. It has also offered to help develop research into reduced-risk products within Russia.
Russia is the world’s second-largest tobacco market by volume, according to Euromonitor International figures for 2014. It has a comparatively small but growing e-cigarette market where ECigIntelligence has noted increasing interest in open systems and better retail distribution. iQOS was first tested in Japan and Italy, and then became available in Switzerland from August of this year. PMI also told ECigIntelligence that a separate recent report, stating it was selling its Solaris e-cigarette in the UK, is incorrect. Solaris is a rebranded version of Altria’s MarkTen which PMI sells in Spain.
What This Means: It’s hardly remarkable that PMI continues to trial iQOS, but its choice of territories is interesting. While Switzerland is PMI’s home country and Italy may represent a toe dipped in the EU water, Russia and Japan have presumably been selected because of their huge combustible markets rather than well-developed e-cigarette scenes. This suggests that PMI expects the bulk of iQOS sales to come from current smokers, not those who have already made the switch to vaping. It also implies that Indonesia and China could be high up on the itinerary for iQOS, as the other largest cigarette markets where the company – which does not operate in the U.S. – is present.
Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff