Phillip Morris Reveals Plans for a New Marlboro “HeatStick”
With the ecig movement growing each day, the big tobacco companies have noticed and they are taking steps to capitalize on the new smoke-free craze. Phillip Morris International is the latest to jump into the ecig industry with a completely new design called the “HeatStick”. This week the Marlboro maker announced that the HeatStick would be available in Italy and Japan later this year. They plan to expand the market in 2015 and could potentially include the United States at some point in the future.
Phillip Morris designed the HeatStick to appeal to smokers looking for a reduced risk option, but there is one main component that sets is apart from the typical electronic cigarette. The new design will actually utilize real tobacco rather than e-liquids with tobacco flavorings. Executives told the press that using actual tobacco would enhance the quality of the experience and be more attractive than standard ecigs. They justify that the HeatStick will still be a reduced risk product because the tobacco is heated rather than burned so there is no combustion involved.
Despite claims that this new product is destined for success, analysts agree that Phillip Morris is taking a big risk. By using actual tobacco, they could potentially turn off a lot of former smokers that prefer vaping because of the lack of tobacco related risks. Even if the tobacco is vaporized rather than smoked, it doesn’t change the fact that this is a tobacco product and must be treated as such by regulators.
In addition, the HeatStick will be branded as a Marlboro product, which is another potentially risky choice. Marlboro has a reputation for excellence as a top selling cigarette brand, but for smokers that have already transitioned away from cigarettes, going back to a Marlboro-branded product might seem like a step backwards. Even though this product will be marketed as a “harm reduction” alternative, the Marlboro name could be sufficient to create distrust in the eyes of many vapers.
Despite some obvious risk factors, Phillip Morris is moving forward with the HeatStick and reportedly already has more than $2 billion tied up in the design. Ten years ago, the tobacco giant began working on a similar design, but consumers largely rejected it. After reinventing that initial design, Phillip Morris is hopeful that today’s ecig trend will open the door for greater acceptance of this alternative tobacco product. In this week’s announcement, executives said they expect to spend $680 million to build distribution centers in Italy and then the HeatStick will launch later this year.
How do you feel about the HeatStick design? Does it concern you that it contains tobacco or that it carries the Marlboro name?