On the shores of Lake Neuchâtel in the French speaking part of Switzerland, over four hundred scientists are on a mission to convert the world’s smokers to a safer product which will allow them, if they can’t give up, to a smoke free product that will allow them to enjoy nicotine without the smoke and its by products.
Manchester has become the first city outside London to see the launch of IQOS Heated Tobacco technology from the Global manufacturer Philip Morris International with the launch of two new IQOS stores.
About Manchester was invited to Switzerland to discover more and see whether this new technology could be one of the answers to one of one of Greater Manchester’s most pressing health problems
Smoking, as we all know is dangerous.Smoking rates increased dramatically during the 20th century in developed countries until recently and rates are still increasing in underdeveloped countries.
An epidemic of smoking-related diseases has followed the prevalence of smoking. Scientific knowledge of the harmful effects of active tobacco smoking has accumulated during the past 60 years since early descriptions of the increasing prevalence of lung cancer.The first epidemiological studies showing an association between smoking and lung cancer were published in 1950.
Prof Michael Russell in the 1970’s studied why people were not able to quit, despite knowing all the life threatening health risks, and came to the conclusion that it was nicotine that they were addicted to. It’s not the nicotine that kills half of all long-term smokers, it’s the delivery mechanism” he advanced in his 1991 paper.
Twelve years on from cigarettes being banished from all UK pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants, there are an estimated 333,000 fewer current adult cigarette smokers in the North West today, compared to when the smoking ban in England was introduced in 2007.
While smoking rates have continued to decline, especially since the smoking ban of 2007, three of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs are still in the top ten areas of the country where people smoke.Manchester Salford and Oldham stand alongside Hull, Blackpool, Nottingham and Liverpool as being among the worst areas where people smoke.
Greater Manchester wants to be smoke free by 2034 but in the meantime, for those who can’t quit, let them have access to nicotine without inhaling the toxins from the smoke.
This is the basis behind the initiative, thirty years in the making by Philip Morris International.(PMI)
Let’s get some obvious points though out of the way.
Their unsmoke campaign says that if you don’t smoke,don’t start, if you smoke try to quit and if you can’t quit, then change.If you walk into a store, you will first be asked if you are a smoker, if you answer no you will be ushered out of the door, the same question is asked on the website, answer in the negative and you won’t get any further.
More than 400 scientists work in the Neuchâtel office, known as the cube.The Company has produced 4,600 patents, there more than 6,000 in the pipeline and more than six million dollars have so far been invested.
The journey so far has seen 340 peer reviewed papers, and Philip Morris believe that they are the world leaders in this science.
The group see the writing on the wall for conventional tobacco smoking, six factories are either partially or totally dedicated to the new technology.
As to the science,stay with me please.When you light a conventional cigarette,the tobacco reaches over 800 degrees.The act of burning produces over 6000 known toxins.When you don’t set fire to the tobacco,the temperature reaches 350 degrees and only around 100 toxins are produced.
A little history.At first PMI tried heating externally, it wasn’t a commercial success, customers, in the pre e-cigarette era hated the bulkiness of the product.In 2007 they switched to heating Immediately people liked it, one of its first successes is that it did away with the taste of the burning paper.
The heating blade is made of ceramic incorporating platinum, gold and silver tracks,the tobacco heats to the ideal temperature for 14 puffs or around 6 minutes.
Historically, some argue,there has been strong evidence that studies performed by the tobacco industry or by researchers funded by the tobacco industry cannot be trusted.
However PMI take their research seriously, so much so that they now have FDA approval to start selling their product in the USA.
Their extensive studies including long term linked to consumer use track the long term effects of smokers switching to their products as well as short term toxicological and clinical assessments
In Japan, the product has already been a great success based, they believe on two factors, the Japanese willingness to adopt to new technology and that the Japanese culture embraces the fact that smoking heated cigarettes can be done without disturbing those close to you.
But there are barriers.The advertising ban on any tobacco products in the UK will mean the message being only dissipated slowly.The Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee discussed heated tobacco products during its inquiry into e cigarettes but any changes in the regulatory system appear a long way off.
PMI recognise that their goal of having nearly nearly a third of the estimated 130 million smokers in 2025 using their product is a huge one and will only be achieved with the help of governments and regulators.Regulation in much of Africa and Asia, where the smoking market is growing still prevents the product’s launch.
Added to that some science still has questions.The European Respiratory Society say that Nicotine and tar levels have been found to be almost identical to a conventional cigarette , the potentially carcinogenic substance acenaphthene is found to be almost three times higher than in conventional cigarettes , and release of formaldehyde cyanohydrin takes place, which is of great concern as it is highly toxic at very low concentrations .
In addition, a study found that users of heated tobacco may be forced to smoke at a rapid pace which could lead to an increase in intake of carbonyls (potentially carcinogenic) and nicotine, inducing a high level of nicotine dependence.
PMI however say that the data they are using lacks important information.
A spokesman for the Company said:
“The research letter lacks important scientific information that could significantly impact any conclusions about e-cigarettes and heated tobacco. The author’s conclusion that both IQOS and e-cigarettes are as toxic as cigarettes is not in line with current available evidence and goes against the growing consensus from public health authorities such as Public Health England. The results are also out of step with any of our published studies, or those published by independent scientists.”
Two new IQOS stores have opened in St Ann’s Square and Princess Street in recent weeks and a specialist local team has been recruited to help Greater Manchester’s smokers understand how best to switch from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives.