Hispanic Professional Network
Please tell us about the kind of family and neighborhood in which you grew up.
I come from a family of six, including two brothers and my sister, and spent the first 15 years of my life in South America. I grew up in Bogota, Colombia, before moving to Cartagena, Colombia—where I have fond memories of sailing out to the different islands back before they became popular destinations for tourists.
I also lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Caracas, Venezuela, where, because my mother was an ornithologist, we camped in every corner of the country, like the Gran Sabana and the Llanos.
I enjoyed working to understand, integrating and absorbing the culture and making great friendships during my time there. To this day, I still look for any and every chance to have an arepa.
Were there any core news stories, you remember, that had an impact on who you are today?
Growing up, I followed everything space-related, especially the Challenger space shuttle which made triumphant strides not only in space exploration and technology, but also by carrying the first black astronauts and female American astronaut into space.
Witnessing how we moved past the adversity from the tragic Challenger explosion, continuing innovation that allowed for dozens of missions, the International Space Station and more taught me a great lesson: setbacks and defeats, no matter their extent, do not end the mission.
Please share how it is that you are fluent in Spanish?
Growing up in South America, I learned Spanish the same time I was learning English. Actually, my parents were worried that I wasn’t learning either but rather a mix of both. I also had the help of conversing with friends and schooling and studied Spanish literature—Jorge Luis Borges is still one of my favorites.
Please tell us about PMI’s smoke-free tobacco platform IQOS.
A few words about Philip Morris International (PMI) first. PMI is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company and its shareholders. PMI is engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, as well as smoke-free products and associated electronic devices and accessories, and other nicotine-containing products in markets outside the United States.
By smoke-free products we mean nicotine-containing alternatives to combustible cigarettes, some of which do not burn tobacco and others that do not contain tobacco at all. When a cigarette is lit, it burns tobacco at temperatures in excess of 1,112°F and the smoke it produces contains an array of harmful chemicals. By eliminating the burning—as is the case with smoke-free products—the levels of harmful chemicals generated can be significantly reduced compared with cigarette smoke. Of course, this should be substantiated on a product-by-product basis.
It is clear, and we are clear, that no tobacco-or nicotine- containing product is risk-free. The best choice adults who smoke can make is quit using tobacco and nicotine altogether, but the reality is that most will continue to smoke. It is estimated that there are over a billion smokers today—including approximately 34 million men and women in the U.S, according to the CDC. —and the World Health Organization estimates there will still be over a billion smokers in 2025. Adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking deserve a science-based approach to regulating alternatives that can help them switch completely from cigarettes.
Our aspirational target is that by 2025, at least 40 million adults will have stopped smoking and switched to our smoke-free products. And, we are convinced that it is possible to completely end cigarette sales in many countries within 10 to 15 years. We are confident that the right mix of government leadership and commercial initiative will dramatically accelerate efforts to reduce the health burden of smoking.
We are rapidly shifting our resources to achieve this bold ambition as soon as possible. Almost all our R&D is dedicated to smoke-free products, and most of our commercial investments are already geared toward them. This includes $7.2 billion invested in the research and development of our smoke-free products.
Since we launched our smoke-free products in 2015, we have made very rapid progress: As of June 30, 2020, we estimate that approximately 11.2 million adult smokers around the world have already stopped smoking and switched to our tobacco heating system, IQOS. As of Q2 2020, smoke-free products accounted for almost a quarter of our net revenues.
Unlike cigarettes, the tobacco heating system heats—but does not burn—tobacco and is a fundamentally different tobacco product and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking.
The product is designed to heat a tobacco plug to a temperature beneath the point at which burning occurs.
IQOS was launched in the U.S. in October 2019, and is commercialized by Altria Group, Inc under an exclusive licensing agreement.
Can you speak of the health benefit/impact, for the transitioning tobacco smoker, of IQOS?
In December 2016, PMI submitted applications seeking authorization from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to market a version of the IQOS system in the United States as a modified risk tobacco product (MRTP). On July 7, 2020, the FDA authorized its marketing as an MRTP. In doing so, the agency found that issuing an IQOS exposure modification order is appropriate to promote the public health. Specifically, the FDA authorized its marketing with reduced exposure information.
• The IQOS system heats tobacco but does not burn it.
• This significantly reduces the production of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals.
• Scientific studies have shown that switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system significantly reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.
The agency also concluded that the available scientific evidence demonstrates that it is expected to benefit the health of the population as a whole, taking into account both users of tobacco products and persons who do not currently use tobacco products. The decision further builds on the emerging independent international scientific consensus that IQOS is a better choice than continuing to smoke, and follows the FDA’s April 2019 decision authorizing its commercialization in the U.S.
Notably, FDA authorization does not mean that IQOS is “safe” or “risk-free” and “authorization” does not imply FDA approval or endorsement as the agency does not “approve” tobacco products
Which are the policies related to nicotine that affect the LatinX communities being considered in Illinois?
Illinois currently has four bills introduced that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products—each without an exemption for smoke-free alternatives authorized under FDA’s premarket tobacco products application pathway, through which the agency must find products to be appropriate for the protection of public health in order to authorize their sale.
PMI believes the best way any government, anywhere can answer questions related to smoke-free products—ranging from harm reduction potential to youth use—is for manufacturers to share their evidence with regulators and for governments to make science-based decisions. Ultimately, it is important that any regulation encourages those who would otherwise continue smoking to switch to science-based smoke-free alternatives, while avoiding unintended consequences, such as adoption by youth and nonsmokers.
The FDA has powerful tools to minimize unintended consequences via its pre-market tobacco product application and modified risk tobacco product authorization pathways. As demonstrated through FDA’s recent decision concerning IQOS, authorization via either of these pathways comes with stringent post-market surveillance and monitoring requirements, the results of which must be regularly reported to the agency.
As consideration is given on how to regulate innovative alternatives to smoking, it is imperative to focus not just on unintended consequences, but also on the intended audience of these products: the approximately 34 million American men and women who smoke today. They have a right to choose alternatives authorized through an FDA regulatory pathway.
As the General Assembly considers how best to regulate alternatives to cigarettes in Illinois, it is important to remember that 15.5 percent of adults in Illinois smoke cigarettes. The best thing adults who currently smoke can do to protect their health is to stop using tobacco and nicotine altogether. Those who do not quit deserve better choices—an opportunity to switch away from cigarettes, the most dangerous form of tobacco use.
Do you have any pictures for publication of IQOS?
As the thrust of this piece is a profile on Martin and PMI’s smoke-free vision, attached please find a headshot of Martin and our research and development facility, known as ‘The Cube,” in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
In addition, light of existing federal and state regulations governing tobacco products we do not generally provide product images to media. For more information about our smoke-free vision, please visit www.pmi.com.