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It’s Time to Unsmoke: How PMI is challenging society's expectations

A Q&A with Jacek Olczak, Chief Operating Officer, Philip Morris International

May 31 marks World No Tobacco Day.

Nevertheless, 1 billion people will start the day with a cigarette between their lips. 

Philip Morris International (PMI) joins in the conversation with a call to recognize May 31 as World No Smoking Day, urging the Public Health Community to support one billion adult smokers worldwide in quitting. Or if they don't quit, to choose better smoke-free alternatives. 

We ask Jacek Olczak, Chief Operating Officer at PMI, what it means for the leading international tobacco company to encourage adult smokers around the world to 'stub it out'.

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What is the role of PMI on World No Tobacco Day?

As Chief Operating Officer at PMI, it's my job to help materialize our transformation and today, this means Unsmoking the world. In fact, developing smoke-free alternatives is something we at PMI have been actively engaged in for more than 20 years. 

Why is No Tobacco Day important?

We believe it's time to evolve World No Tobacco Day into World No Smoking Day. It's time to Unsmoke - to create a planet free of cigarette smoke.

Why's that?

Because not all the tobacco products are the same. Thanks to science and technology, today there are alternatives to cigarettes which contain tobacco that are a better choice for adult smokers who don't quit altogether than continued smoking. It's Time not all tobacco products were characterized as the same. 

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How many people are using this technology as a better alternative to cigarettes?

Since the debut of our main smoke-free product in 2014, more than eight people have switched to PMI’s smoke-free alternatives.

They are currently available for sale in 48 markets (as of June 30, 2019) and 19 of these markets report net revenues from smoke-free products that exceeded 10 percent of total net revenues. In three markets to date, smoke-free products were the biggest part of total net revenues as of the end of March. This indicates that some adults who don’t quit cigarettes are prepared to use this technology and move to smoke-free alternatives.

All of this may surprise you if your perception of PMI is strictly as a cigarette company. But the truth is, not only does this make good business sense, it’s the right thing to do. Nine out of 10 adult smokers continue smoking each year, so regardless of your opinion of our industry, there is one thing on which we should all agree: these individuals deserve better options.

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What prompted this shift towards smoke-free products?

In the mid-Nineties, some of our company’s fiercest critics challenged us to produce less harmful products. We listened - and accepted the challenge.

What kind of resources have you allocated in smoke-free products?


It’s taken hundreds of scientists, thousands of tests, and billions of dollars to invent products without cigarette smoke - smoke-free products that don’t burn tobacco, products that adult smokers can switch to completely and not return to cigarettes.

Are smoke-free products less harmful?

These smoke-free products contain nicotine and are not risk free. However, the science supports their potential to be a better choice than continued smoking. We share our science and data openly with the scientific and medical communities, as well as with governments throughout the world.

The best choice any adult smoker can make is to quit altogether. But those who don’t quit deserve access to these alternative products. They also deserve current information in order to make their own choices. By encouraging the men and women who don’t quit to completely adopt smoke-free alternatives, we can eventually leave cigarettes behind.

That’s why today, we believe It’s time to evolve World No Tobacco Day into World No Smoking Day. It’s time to Unsmoke — to create a planet free of cigarette smoke.