HARM REDUCTION STRATEGIES

Costa Rica 2019 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ana Russo, Managing Director Central America, Dominican Republic and Caribbean for Philip Morris International (PMI), on competitiveness, regional market potential, and harm reduction.

What makes Costa Rica a competitive country?

Philip Morris International (PMI) invests in Costa Rica due to its stable political-economic environment, also infrastructure and conditions such as education and quantity of operational centers. We are expanding our Central American Hub, including the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean, and Costa Rica's political and economic security is a great advantage. In addition, we are a highly regulated industry, and the strong legal security in the country in which we operate is very important. The regulations must be clear and transparent, and there must be dialog with the industry.

How can the sector advance commercially in the face of new challenges today?

Even with increasing prevention and cessation efforts, there are still more than 1 billion people who currently smoke cigarettes, and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there will still be more than a billion people who choose to smoke in 2025. More than 10 years ago, our Switzerland Research & Development Center started to develop less harmful alternatives and study the effects of smoking. We realized that the greatest damage was caused by the combustion of cigarettes, which emits over 6,000 harmful elements that are linked to tobacco related diseases. With that in mind, we developed IQOS, a product that heats the tobacco without burning it; because of that IQOS reduces the exposure of toxic substances caused by the smoke generated by combustion. Switching completely to IQOS present less risk of harm than continuing to smoke based on clinical and non-clinical studies, as well as independent ones. The results are published and available for review. There are no smoke, less smell, and no ash. We are commercializing IQOS in 43 countries worldwide in which five countries are in Latin America and three under my responsibility.

What role does PMI Costa Rica have in the global operations of PMI, both in terms of business and responsibilities?

Every country is important for PMI; every market has smokers that will be part of that new transformation challenge. We want a future with no cigarettes and want to inform those smokers so that they can have the opportunity to understand and switch to a better alternative. PMI always bring innovation and opportunities to Costa Rica.

From a commercial point of view, what is PMI's position in the regional market, particularly in Costa Rica?

We are leaders in several markets in Central America and Caribbean region, such as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. It is important now to come together and discuss what society can and should to allow smokers to have access to better alternatives than cigarettes and implement the right regulatory framework to maximize switching to better products while minimizing any unintended public health consequences.

How are you able to communicate to the market the importance of your studies while respecting the regulations around advertising?

First, we want to communicate to smokers and explain the benefit of the new products. We will also work with authorities and those who regulate this market so they understand the science behind it and the difference between combustible and non-combustible tobacco products. This would allow them to assess the implementation of new regulatory framework that allows to communicate to smokers the benefits of switching to less harmful alternatives.

How does PMI impact the communities in which it works?

The development of IQOS has a significant impact on society. It is a product for those who want to continue smoking, and we provide a choice of a less harmful product which has less smell, no ash and no smoke. Our main project at this moment is IQOS and the development of other types of alternatives. At this point, 6 million men and women worldwide have already stopped smoking and switched to our heated tobacco product - IQOS. We are developing other alternatives to respond to those consumers who prefer 'vaping' to tobacco.