Aleksandar Jakovljević, Philip Morris South East Europe: Science Will Save the World

In 2019, we launched a campaign we believe can change “the course of history” and mark the future

of both Philip Morris and the whole world

New Year is the time of making new decisions. However, regardless of how easy it is to put those optimistic plans on a list, it is very difficult to carry them out. It takes a lot of persistence and strength, as well as willingness to discover and accept new things, with no fear of losing our identity.

Aleksandar Jakovljević Managing Director of Philip Morris South East Europe, explains how a tobacco company’s activities fit into a New Year’s “I will quit smoking” resolution.

“When you enter the market with a product which is completely new and different from everything that exists, as well as from everything your company has ever done, it is expected to raise suspicion and lack of understanding by some people. Therefore, we worked for an entire decade on developing less harmful products before we launched the IQOS, our most advanced smoke-free product so far, first in Japan and Italy and now in 52 markets worldwide. We wanted to be sure of what we offered as a better solution than continued smoking, to have an answer to every question asked by a smoker ready to make such a change, medical doctor, scientist or decision-maker. In a word, to eliminate distrust and prejudice by allowing science behind our work to speak for us.”

If you had to choose one thing, what would mark 2019 in Philip Morris?

– In 2019, we launched a campaign we believe can change “the course of history” and mark the future of both Philip Morris and the whole world. As assessed in a one of studies, the last cigarette in the UK will be extinguished in 2050. We believe we have the way to make it happen sooner, not only in the UK, but also here, at the Balkans. The “UNSMOKE YOUR WORLD” campaign does not dispute that smokers will make the best possible choice if they stop consuming tobacco and nicotine products. At the same time, it does not turn a blind eye to the fact that a large portion out of 1.3 billion smokers, as the number estimated by the World Health Organization, will simply not do it. It is necessary to offer less harmful alternatives than cigarettes to them. And it does not matter whether those alternatives are produced by Philip Morris or some other company; what matters is that the product is scientifically proven to be a better option than cigarettes and that it is commercialized responsibly. We want to change the world with this campaign, and that goes beyond narrow commercial gain. But it also goes beyond capacities of one company, regardless of how big it is, and that is why we want to ask media, expert public and regulators across the world for assistance in order to send cigarettes to history as soon as possible.

Is there still a commercial accomplishment that you will remember 2019 by?

– The IQOS is the first device from the heat-not-burn category, as well as from the category of alternative devices in general, which has already obtained approval of the US’ Food and Drugs Agency (FDA) for commercialization in the USA, in April of 2019. The FDA concluded that its commercialization under regulated terms is appropriate for the protection of the public health and therefore media headlines calling this decision historical were not exaggerated, because that is what it really is. It took more than two years for the FDA to review all the scientific evidence about the features of this product, which we had submitted before its experts decided that the evidence was solid and in accordance with the high standards. We believe that such forms of approval are the best way to avoid mystification and cut the Gordian knot of misconceptions and misinformation related to alternatives to cigarettes. Not all alternatives are the same; the IQOS heats real tobacco sticks, while e-cigarettes use liquids containing nicotine, but they all, if controlled and complaint with defined procedures, can be beneficial to smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke.

Will PMI’s operations continue to be focused on innovation?

– It would be illogical and irresponsible to simply halt that process of investing in innovation and better future after 15 years and more than 6 billion dollars invested in the innovative product that are less harmful. A lot of effort has been made to find a perfect proportion – a high quality product which is less harmful and which will both satisfy needs of smokers and preserve a ritual which is very important for smokers in order to accept this alternative. If so many scientists from the areas of toxicology, pharmacy, medicine, biology and about 30 more scientific areas in Philip Morris work on developing better choice for smokers, I believe that our industry can also contribute to the improvement of quality of life for all of us. I will dare to quote a renowned Russian SF author and biochemist, Isaac Asimov, who said that “The salvations that may save the world, every one of them, can be trace back in science”.

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