|Philip Morris' IQOS and British American Tobacco's Glow|
Foreign tobacco companies that have released heat-not-burn cigarettes argued against the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s statement claiming that e-cigarettes are as harmful as conventional products.
Last week, the ministry said there was no evidence to show heat-not-burn cigarettes are less harmful than regular tobaccos. The ministry added that heat-not-burn cigarettes, which the public has often perceived as being less harmful to health than ordinary tobacco, were found to have more tar than the latter, and have the same nicotine content.
Three cigarette companies – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT) and KT&G – currently market heat-not-burn cigarettes in Korea.
“We understand the ministry’s concerns, but the statement focuses only on the total tar amount, which is not a standard in regulating cigarettes,” a BAT Korea official told Korea Biomedical Review over the phone. “Moreover, heat-not-burn cigarettes do not produce the same tar as ordinary cigarettes because it heats the tobacco."
It is not appropriate to compare the tar of electronic cigarette with general cigarettes, he added.
The official stressed BAT Korea had never claimed that its heat-not-burn cigarettes did not contain any nicotine, noting that the ministry report also supports that their brand comprises less toxic material than regular cigarettes.
“The ministry reported on the nine most hazardous ingredients in the cigarette smoke designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and confirmed that the hazardous chemical emissions from our heat-not-burn cigarettes are significantly less than regular cigarettes,” he said. “Specifically, the research confirmed that Glow, a BAT brand, had low concentrations on most of the nine harmful components.”
Phillip Morris Korea also said although they understood and supported the government's efforts to promote smoking cessation, the ministry’s release only deepened smokers’ confusion.
“We are disappointed that the ministry’s announcement did not accurately reflect the results of the analysis,” the company said in a statement.
According to the ministry's analysis, Philip Morris’ heat-not-burn cigarettes had a 90 percent lower concentration on the nine kinds of harmful substances contained in the aerosols (steam) when compared with the top five ordinary cigarettes sold in the domestic market, the company said.
The ministry’s report in this regard is consistent with the studies conducted by independent research institutes, including government agencies around the world, it added.
“The research is a crucial analysis for smokers, who have already switched to heat-not-burn cigarettes and millions of other smokers who consider changing to our cigarette in the future,” Phillip Morris said. “Surprisingly, however, the agency focused on 'tar' levels in the analysis and excluded other meaningful data to suggest that heat-not-burn cigarettes are as harmful as regular cigarettes.”
Local cigarette manufacturer KT&G, however, fell short of siding with its foreign competitors.
"We fully understand the purpose of the government's investigation," the company said in a press release. “Although the hazardous components have been reduced, heat-not-burn cigarettes also need to be categorized as a type of cigarette."