And the end-game of the attack campaign against vaping is finally revealed:
The Next Vaping
Big Tobacco claims to have created a safer cigarette. Is unleashing it a big mistake?
A glass-walled bastion of minimalism in a retail mall in Atlanta is the first of its kind in the United States. It looks like an Apple Store, but with a bouncer. You have to be 21 or older to enter. If you want to buy what’s inside, you must be a cigarette smoker. Or at least, you must tell the salesperson that you’re a cigarette smoker.
The store’s product is an electrified cylinder to be kept in your pocket. Branded “IQOS,” which is widely believed to be an acronym for “I Quit Original Smoking,” the device is the first in what’s expected to be a new class known as “heated tobacco” or “heat not burn” products.* They’re not vaping or smoking, but another way of inhaling the addictive stimulant nicotine.
The IQOS is USB-charged and about the size of a Sharpie. The far end has a port where you put a roll of tobacco that looks like a short cigarette. Overall, the aesthetic is closer to an asthma inhaler than to anything James Dean would have carried. Signifiers of smoking and vaping are absent: There is no flame, no smoke, and only a ghostly wisp to exhale.
No celebrities or red carpets were at the Atlanta store opening in September, like they were this month at the Munich opening. The product wasn’t authorized for sale in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration until April, and its seller didn’t know how well it would be received. And the pitch for the device is technically illegal for the company to say, since the FDA does not allow it: The IQOS is safer than cigarettes.
Nevertheless, the IQOS mall experience feels timed to appeal to the wary, weary consumer, conveying a sense of safety and authority absent from the off-brand vaping accoutrements on offer in dank bodegas. Arriving at this moment of panic, the heated-tobacco idea is poised to be a massively popular alternative. These devices could potentially become more ubiquitous than vaping, or even cigarettes.
At least, that is the stated goal of the company that makes them: the world’s most prolific seller of cigarettes, Philip Morris International (PMI). For the company (and its U.S. spin-off, Altria), heated tobacco is more than a dip of the toe into a novelty market. The cigarette giant says that it is staking its future on this new product, and that it has spent $6 billion in the past decade to develop it.
News organizations started focusing intently on the dangers of vaping around the same time that PMI and Altria were ready to launch IQOS in the U.S. In September, amid concerns about spikes in teen rates of use and the reported deaths, PMI put out a press release calling attention to the recent vaping-related lung injuries. “The company is clearly trying to position this product as a safer alternative to vaping and smoking,” Ayers told me.
I would not put it past the people who run such a company to put bad batches of vape pens and e-juice on the market in order to ensure that their $6 billion investment pays off.
Timing, as they say, is everything. And sometimes it can be really suspicious.
That's a rather large investment, and for ANY other retail product released by ANY other company there would be a marketing blitz with a lot of PR/fanfare surrounding the initial launch of a $6 billion product, but PMI's suspiciously low-key release in the U.S. strongly suggests that they damned well know they're 100% fuckery.
Of course, I also strongly suspect that the infamous Tylenol poisonings in the 1980's that brought about tamper-proof packaging was also staged to protect an investment and stimulate sales. Which succeeded beyond all expectations, apparently. The technology to counter the grave new threat to consumers just so happened to be ready to go to market (at scale!) immediately after the deaths were reported and there was no hesitation to mandate their use because it sucks to get cyanide when you thought you were taking acetaminophen. And such poisonings never happened again, oddly enough, which seems very unlikely for a random poisoner/serial killer-type person. I guess I'm kind of cynical about some stuff, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.
So I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn that PMI intentionally facilitated a bit of "collateral damage" to ensure they won the nicotine addiction-management war (which they appear to be about to do). I'm sure they learned a hell of a lot about PR and spin-doctoring from the decades of horrible press the tobacco industry in general has faced and from their abysmal corporate reputation in particular. Those lessons probably did not involve higher moral and ethical standards.
Walking away from nicotine in all of its forms renders all of this lunacy moot, but PMI has bet $6 billion that the general public is not strong enough to resist it. They are probably correct in their assessment, unfortunately.
Edited by TVCasualty, 17 December 2019 - 09:26 AM.