A top executive of tobacco giant Philip Morris International said the company plans to continue leading the heat-not-burn cigarette market and ultimately realize its vision for a smoke-free future.
“We are trying to lead continuous innovation with more than 400 scientists and research and development staff who have a scientific background,” PMI Senior Vice President of Global Communications Marian Salzman told The Investor.
PMI Senior Vice President of Global Communications Marian Salzman
“I think we cannot satisfy the needs of smokers who do not quit by providing just one way. It is best for them to quit, but if that is not possible, they will constantly look for alternatives.”
Salzman joined Philip Morris 19 months ago and is currently responsible for global communications in 51 countries.
Before joining the company, she began her career in advertising and helped found the online market research company Cyber Dialogue. She is best known for coming up with the term “metrosexual man” in 2003. “It was the time when industries such as fashion, men’s beauty, men’s style and the like began to expand; therefore, we can say that developing this term was a contribution,” Salzman said.
Although she is an expert in public relations, joining Philip Morris was still a challenge for her.
“In unregulated industries, it is easy to become an expert. However, in a regulated industry, it is very difficult to become an expert,” Salzman said, adding that she decided to take the job as she agreed with the company’s vision of a smoke-free future.
“I thought that communication for encouraging people to quit smoking is the most important and difficult challenge compared to anything else.”
She also mentioned that as a nonsmoker, she’d had to do a vast amount of research to learn her job. “I have been looking at materials and studying every day, as if I were a graduate student, for my survival,” she said.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
Q: What are the key messages for science-based communications from Philip Morris?
Salzman: The key message is “better alternatives to combustible cigarettes are available and more will become available in the future.”
I have worked for 19 months and have never promoted, studied, or received any requests related to conventional cigarettes. I do not know how they are produced, sold or marketed. My knowledge of conventional cigarettes is that of an ordinary consumer.
Q. As part of PMIs efforts to achieve a smoke-free future, you have put a lot of emphasis on science. What do you think is a constructive way to discuss science?
Salzman: At the core of everything is science and the messages that are derived from it.
The industry I developed my career in was developed with exaggerations and expanded expressions, but it’s not the case in this industry. Everything is based on science, which is at the core of everything.
Q: Your company received authorization for preselling from the US Food and Drug Administration four months ago. Can you update us on your progress?
Salzman: Last April we received authorization for the FDA, and exactly 2 1/2 weeks ago we opened our first store in Atlanta, Georgia.
However, from my perspective, I think it is only a pilot store. It is more of a soft launch. Many customers are visiting us and they are interacting with our staff, but I do not think it is ready for a full launch.
Together with our business partner Altria, we will open stores in many cities in the coming years.
Q: Philip Morris has a slogan, “smoke-free future,” and is currently conducting an “unsmoke” campaign. How are these connected?
Salzman: IQOS is a heated tobacco product – different than an e-cigarette – and (switching completely to it) presents less risk of harm than cigarette smoking. Unsmoke is the creative articulation of a smoke-free future but it goes a little bit further than that. Because I can unsmoke you, if you are a combustible smoker. I can tell you if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quit, and the third choice is if you won’t quit, then change to something better. That’s when smoke-free products come in. But unsmoking is about getting rid of conventional tobacco.
Unsmoke is not a product campaign -- it is about changing your mind about combustible cigarettes.
By Song Seung-hyun (email@example.com)