André Calantzopoulos made the announcement at the 2020 Concordia Annual Summit last week as he discussed the state of the industry.

Speaking at the summit, which brings together business and government leaders to share insights and discuss how to enact positive social changes, Mr Calantzopoulos said that with the ‘right regulatory encouragement’ and community support, sales could cease in many countries within just 10-15 years.

Describing the four biggest obstacles to change as “uncertainty, polarisation, hyperpartisanship and ideology,” he said these had been heightened during by the pandemic and had increased tensions and polarised opinion in the public discourse.

“Being at the helm of the largest multinational tobacco company as it transforms to deliver a smoke-free future, I experience firsthand how detrimental polarisation is to making real progress—in this case, progress in eradicating smoking. And, as a reminder, this concerns more than one billion men and women who smoke around the world,” Mr Calantzopoulos said.

PMI’s portfolio includes high profile brands such as Marlboro, Benson & Hedges and Parliament. Acknowledging that the best option was to never begin smoking in the first place or to quick tobacco and nicotine completely, he argued that smoking alternatives were being overlooked, which he believed was detrimental to those seeking alternatives to smoking, though these too were not risk free, he said.

“A future in which cigarettes are obsolete is within reach. In fact, with the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, we believe cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries. Yes, that’s right: an end to cigarettes within 10 to 15 years in many countries.”

“Unfortunately, political agendas and ideology are slowing progress and keeping millions of people uninformed. Rather than holding an evidence-based conversation on how best to regulate these innovative products to help adult smokers leave cigarettes behind, we are often faced with an ideologically driven resistance from some public health organizations and some NGOs,” he added.

Mr Calantzopoulos said 11.2 million smokers globally had already shifted from cigarettes to PMI’s heat-not-burn IQOS products. However, while marketed as a safer alternatives, Australian health bodies and the Therapeutic Goods Administration hold concerns, particularly around devices delivering unreliable doses of nicotine, the potential for leaking nicotine or containing toxic chemicals or carcinogens.  

The TGA last month announced an interim determination to allow consumers to access e-cigarettes containing nicotine and nicotine fluid, but only with a doctor’s prescription which must be filled by a pharmacy.

Following government lobbying, it also delayed a proposed ban on imports of e-cigarettes containing vaporiser nicotine and refills unless with a doctor’s prescription, which had been due to begin on July 1, to until January 1, 2021 to allow for wider consultation.

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