The science behind PMI's transformation

31 Jul 2019 · 5 min read
We’ve invested billions in research and development since 2008, employed hundreds of scientists, and created a range of smoke-free products.
Diverse group of PMI scientists in the laboratory

There is a lot to talk about, so let’s talk.

What do PMI scientists do?

This pioneering group of PMI scientists and technicians work collaboratively to create reduced-risk products that mimic the sensory components of cigarettes, without smoke. But what exactly is involved in the scientific process of driving a smoke-free product’s journey from conception to mass production?

It begins with the initial assessment of a product’s risk-reduction potential. This is based on the quality of the product’s design and on strict manufacturing quality controls to ensure it delivers a consistent aerosol. During this early phase, tests are conducted by PMI scientists to determine if the product design will lead to an overall and significant reduction in harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) in the aerosol, compared with cigarette smoke.

PMI's Vision For A Smoke-free Future (Without Cigarettes)


A view from inside The Cube, PMI’s research and development facility in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

PMI's Vision For A Smoke-free Future (Without Cigarettes)

Jacek Olczak, CEO of Philip Morris International, speaks to camera:

This company is about the progress.

This company wants to change the world.

If we can get there, this is going to be phenomenal.

[Classical music]

Text on screen reads: We've built the world's most successful cigarette company,

but we have thoroughly transformed,

taking great strides towards realizing our vision of replacing cigarettes for good.

Stefano Volpetti, President, Smoke-Free Inhaled Products & Chief Consumer Officer for PMI, speaks to camera:

This company has had the courage,

the visionary leadership,

to establish a new direction, to disrupt the category.

Text on screen reads:

It's why we've invested more than $10.5 billion to date

and employed over 1,500 scientists, engineers and R&D experts to develop our smoke-free products.

Michael Voegele, Chief Digital and Information Officer for PMI, speaks to camera:

I think it’s a unique challenge, being part of a team that revolutionizes the industry.

Text on screen reads:

It's our ambition that within the next two years, more than 50 percent of our net revenue will come from smoke-free products.

Jacek Olczak continues speaking:

The big aspirations address the problem of smoking,

going smoke-free,

over 50 percent of revenues coming from this product.

This is very ambitious and that calls for a progress.

Marian Salzman, Senior Vice President, Global Communications for Philip Morris International, speaks to camera:

We’ve said yes to people when they want to ask us questions.

We’ve told them the truth when they’ve posed the questions.

Text on screen reads:

With the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society

we believe many countries can end cigarette sales within 10 to 15 years.

Jacek Olczak continues speaking:

If you compare it to many other industries

which also were going for some transformation driven by the product,

nobody is coming that close, as we are.

Text on screen reads:

Innovation, science and technology drive our transformation,

helping us deliver a better, smoke-free future.

Philip Morris International logo appears.

Text on screen reads:

It's always better to quit tobacco and nicotine altogether, but those who don't, deserve access to and accurate information about better alternatives to cigarettes.

Music ends.

Measuring toxicity

Another area of research involves measuring the level of toxicity in the aerosol of smoking alternatives compared to cigarette smoke.

PMI carries out these assessments using standard and advanced toxicology methods (comparable to those used in the pharmaceutical industry) to establish whether the reduction in HPHCs leads to a lower impact of the product aerosol on the biological mechanisms underlying smoking-related diseases.

Next up is the clinical assessment stage, in which PMI scientists study adult smokers to determine if switching to the better alternative to smoking reduces their exposure to harmful compounds.

The effects of using the smoke-free product are assessed against both people who have continued smoking cigarettes and those who have quit tobacco and nicotine completely.

Perception and behavior studies

Then, PMI scientists conduct wider perception and behavior studies to assess a smoke-free product’s potential to benefit public health.

A key area of this is understanding how different groups of people view the risk profile of a smoke-free product and how likely they are to permanently adopt it instead of smoking cigarettes, while making every effort to ensure that the product does not appeal to non-smokers, former smokers, or those trying to quit nicotine and tobacco products completely.

Long-term assessment

Finally, there’s the long-term assessment stage. This involves monitoring and researching the use of PMI’s smoke-free products once they’re available to buy, in order to assess their contribution to harm reduction. This is achieved by collating qualitative and quantitative data on the use of the smoking alternative in the real world. 

At the heart of each phase of product development and testing are the PMI scientists, all of whom are determined to reshape the future of public health.

PMI’s R&D employees are working with painstaking precision and ambition to make a difference to the lives of smokers across the world.

Jean-Claude Schneider, Global Head of Product Development Programs, said: “It’s more than a big shift. It’s a revolution. It’s a complete redesign of the organization towards this new objective, which is a smoke-free future.”