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Optimism in the Time of COVID

 By: Mr. Martin King, CEO, PMI America


As 2020 draws to a close, we reflect on a world in flux, beset by a series of seemingly insurmountable challenges: the unrelenting grip of the COVID-19 pandemic; the crippling economic downturn; the intensifying climate crisis; the weakening of our institutions; and the erosion of democracy. It may therefore seem paradoxical that – faced with this rather stark reality – we approach the new year with a renewed sense of hope, optimism and purpose. It is with this spirit of strength and resolve that PMI looks to a better future.


The tumultuous events of 2020 have not diminished PMI’s determination to phase out cigarettes and offer adult smoking science-based products that are a significantly better choice than continued smoking. On the contrary, we remain steadfast in our efforts and firmly believe that, with the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries. .

Despite the challenges this year, we celebrate the tremendous progress that we have made in transforming PMI’s business and achieving our vision of a smoke-free future. In July, PMI achieved a significant milestone as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of IQOS, our electrically heated tobacco system, as a “modified risk tobacco product”. The authorization, which builds on international scientific consensus, corroborates that IQOS considerably reduces the body’s exposure to harmful chemicals and thus benefits adults who would otherwise continue smoking. 


The FDA decision sets a critical example of how differentiated regulation can promote public health, in this case by differentiating science-backed smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes. Governments across the world also recognize the role that better alternatives to continued smoking can play. Offered a clearly better choice, consumers have embraced these alternatives; to date, nearly 12 million adults globally have stopped smoking and switched to IQOS.


As the world grapples with how to get back to “normal” in the COVID-19 era, it is clear that few aspects of life will ever be quite the same. The pandemic has served to make us at PMI more acutely aware of just how interconnected our world is. Public-private collaboration has acquired an elevated meaning as we work to confront the social and economic challenges at hand, making it more critical than ever that we establish an open and pragmatic dialogue with all sectors of society. 


Our resolution at PMI remains to create a smoke-free future; if we are to address the problem of cigarette smoking, it is essential that we be part of the solution. 

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