Philip Morris' new smoking gadget could replace its own cigarettes

Philip Morris has introduced a new smoking gizmo called iQOS, and it could one day replace the company's own tobacco cigarettes. The company introduced the product in the UK recently, describing it as a small electronic gadget that works by vaporizing tobacco rather than burning it. By doing this, per the claims, users will inhale the same amount of nicotine as they get from a cigarette, but without all the toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke.

Philip Morris International is the world's largest global tobacco company, and it has been facing growing business hurdles. Social attitudes toward smoking have changed greatly in the past few decades, and regulators are increasingly rolling out new rules that make life harder for tobacco companies and smokers alike.

The UK recently implemented new rules regarding cigarette marketing that affect things like cigarette packaging colors. A legal appeal attempted to reverse these rules, but as noted by Reuters, the effort was not successful. Other rulings around the world have restricted where tobacco can be used and bought, how it can be marketed, and more.

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Tobacco companies are increasingly looking for ways to stay alive in the brave new mostly-non-smoking world, and that includes electronic gadgets. The electronic cigarette brand "Blu," for example, has been owned by a few different big tobacco companies over the years, and now Philip Morris has presented its own alternative: iQOS, an electronic vaporizer that uses real tobacco rather than a nicotine solution.

The company has made some bold statements as of late, including making it known that it would like to usher out regular tobacco cigarettes in the future. Speaking to Reuters, Philip Morris UK and Ireland managing director Martin Inkster said, "We certainly see a future where Philip Morris no longer will be selling cigarettes in the market." Underscoring that statement is the fact that Philip Morris didn't challenge the UK's recently passed cigarette marketing rules.

Circling back to iQOS, Philip Morris says it spent $3 billion and ten years on smokeless research that ultimately produced the product, among other things. The company claims the vapor produced by this device has sub-10% the level of carcinogens found in tobacco smoke. The product has gone on sale in places that include Switzerland, Japan and Italy.

Assuming all goes as planned, the company will launch iQOS in 20 markets before 2016 reaches its end. The product isn't exactly cheap, however, and will ultimately help ensure Philip Morris continues to see money roll in from tobacco sales...even if people stop smoking traditional cigarettes.

The iQOS device itself costs about $55, and it utilizes tobacco sticks, which resemble cigarettes. These tobacco sticks are sold in packs of 20, just like cigarettes, and they cost somewhere in the range of $10 per pack. Whether smokers can be swayed buy something with a relatively high initial cost — that doesn't produce smoke or anything close to it, such as ecigs — is yet to be seen.