PMI’s Rapid Expansion of IQOS in South Africa

PMI’s Rapid Expansion of IQOS in South Africa
Jindrich Preis

Unlocking IQOS in Africa

Tobacco company Philip Morris South Africa (PMSA) says its flagship heat not burn product IQOS is making significant strides in Africa and is aiming to increase its IQOS user base by 84 percent in South Africa over the next three years.

On the company’s bold ambition, newly appointed IQOS Marketing and Digital Director in South Africa, Jindrich Preis says: “Quite simply, we want to end the sale of cigarettes and believe that we should stop debating on whether smoke-free products should be made available but rather how fast to best help the adult men and women who would otherwise continue smoking to switch.”

“IQOS is fundamentally different to cigarettes because it doesn’t burn tobacco,” he explains. “The vast majority of harmful chemicals are contained in the smoke produced from burning tobacco and since IQOS doesn’t burn tobacco, it significantly lowers the levels of harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes.” IQOS is not risk free, it provides nicotine with is addictive.

Jindrich Preis
Jindrich Preis

He notes that while IQOS is not risk free as it provides nicotine which is addictive. It heats tobacco instead of burning it, making it a better alternative for adult smokers compared to continued smoking.

While there is still a big need to educate adult smokers – about the benefits of switching fully to scientifically substantiated smoke-free products, he says that PMSA is aiming for a significant double-digit growth by offering a superior product, continued investment into the market, increasing the availability footprint of IQOS and continuing to provide an in-store experience which is important for education of the product to adult smokers.

“As of the first quarter of 2022, PMI’s smoke-free net revenues made up over 30 percent of our proforma total in comparison to 27.9 percent for the full year in 2021,” he explains. “As of March 2022, our smoke-free products are available in 70 markets – of which 30 are low and middle-income markets and PMI expects IQOS to be in 100 markets in the next five years.”

He continues: “The growth trajectory is testament to PMI’s ongoing efforts and investment globally into smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes. With continued investment, further expansion of the footprint of IQOS and support from regulators, we will be able to make significant strides in switching adult smokers to better smoke-free alternatives within three years.”

“We are positively surprised at how South African adult smokers are open to smoke-free alternatives, but we are reliant on regulators to provide the platform and opportunity to educate them on these products,” he adds. “Our ambition for South Africa is to join the many countries having embraced the smoke-free alternatives.”

Most notably, he adds that the latest international survey conducted by independent research firm Povaddo revealed a public appetite for a better approach to reducing the societal harm caused by cigarettes. “Eight in ten (84 percent) South African survey respondents believe that encouraging those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch to smoke-free alternatives instead can complement other efforts to reduce harm,” he says.

He stresses that while there is no doubt that the best option is to quit smoking altogether, many don’t. “PMI has been clear that former and never users of nicotine-containing products, especially minors, should not use any tobacco or nicotine products,” he adds. “Our smoke-free products are intended for one audience: adults who smoke and would otherwise continue to do so.  Responsible sales and marketing is a key priority for PMI.”

“Despite challenging economic conditions, we’re continuing to invest to bring better, smoke-free alternatives to South Africa’s 11 million adult smokers,” says Preis.

Since the launch of IQOS in 2017, the company says there are over fifty touch points in the country where IQOS is available as well as sales experts within local communities across the country. “Existing stores are concentrated in the major shopping malls of Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng,” he adds. “We opened our first store at the V&A Waterfront in 2018 followed by the flagship boutique in Sandton City in 2019, and last year Cape Town got its first flagship store at Canal Walk.”

Preis says PMSA has prioritised investing into the IQOS footprint in the market to provide IQOS users with a better experience and service. Most notably, he adds that PMI is continuously developing devices that can be accessible to all income groups so that we can provide better alternatives to a wide range of consumers. “Everyone deserves a better choice and when it comes to smoking adult smokers deserve alternatives,” he adds.

PMI has made some significant strides in the past decade. “This is not only evidenced by the 13.5-million IQOS users who have switched completely and stopped smoking cigarettes, but also in terms of our research and development into other smoke-free alternatives,” he says.

“We’re about to begin our most exciting chapter yet,” Preis says. “IQOS is evolving from a product brand into a platform brand which will include a number of different smoke-free technologies to better meet the needs of men and women who would otherwise continue smoking.”

He stresses that no single product would be able to successfully move the world’s approximately 1 billion smokers away from cigarettes. “A portfolio comprising various technologies catering to different experiences, taste preferences and affordability levels is needed – and this is where we’re heading,” he adds.

“Combined with the right regulatory frameworks, dialogue, and support from civil society, we believe cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries,” Preis concludes.

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