PMI to launch tobacco-free LEVIA with 99% less harmful chemicals than cigarettes

Shaimaa Al-Aees
8 Min Read

Neuchâtel– Philip Morris International (PMI) is planning to launch a tobacco-free product called LEVIA soon. LEVIA is made from a cellulose-based material, which is a natural plant fibre. Unlike cigarettes, LEVIA does not contain tobacco, but it does contain nicotine. Gizelle Baker, the Vice President of Global Scientific Engagement at PMI, explained more about LEVIA and PMI’s efforts to innovate smoke-free products in an interview with Daily News Egypt.

What are your efforts to innovate smoke-free products?

Our goal is to help people who smoke cigarettes to switch to smoke-free alternatives. However, this is not easy. If it was, cigarettes would have disappeared when people learned about their harmful effects. But we still have many people who smoke, even though they know it is bad for them.

Therefore, we need to do more than just reduce harm. We need to offer smokers products that are satisfying enough that they can quit cigarettes. This means we need to have different types of devices, because some smokers may find some devices too complicated. We also need to have different price points, so that smokers can afford to switch. And we need to consider things like flavour, satisfaction, and ritual. Whatever aspect of smoking that keeps a smoker hooked, we have to address that.

I would also like to mention our ZYN product, which is very different from the smoking ritual. It still delivers nicotine but without any smoke or aerosol. We need to keep innovating products that give smokers what they want and remove what they don’t, to reduce the risk that they go back to smoking.

You announced that you will produce a tobacco-free product. Can you tell us more about this product and its features?

We hope to launch it soon. The product is called LEVIA, and it is a cellulose-based product. Cellulose is a natural plant fibre, and it is also found in tobacco leaves. LEVIA does not contain tobacco, but it does contain nicotine and propylene glycol. It creates an aerosolized nicotine, similar to e-cigarettes, but without using tobacco leaves. This way, nicotine is delivered without the tobacco smell or flavour, but with the ritual of hand to mouth and the sensory experience.

How much does LEVIA reduce harm compared to cigarettes?

We claim that e-cigarettes emit on average 95% less harmful chemicals than cigarettes, while LEVIA emits on average 99% less harmful chemicals. This is based on the characterization of the aerosol that comes out of the product.

How will LEVIA be used?

LEVIA will be used with the ILUMA device. The device can recognize which product is inserted in it, and adjust the settings accordingly. When LEVIA becomes available in the market, we will update the firmware on the device to enable this feature. This will help users to have the best experience with the product.

When will LEVIA be launched?

A: The product is ready to be launched. We are starting to conduct ‘People Usage’ studies, which will happen as we put it on the market. We are excited to offer smokers a new option to switch from cigarettes to a tobacco-free product.

How do alternative products reduce the risk of passive smoking or secondhand smoke?

The main way they reduce it is by not producing smoke. When you light a cigarette and leave it in an ashtray, it emits smoke into the room. This is called environmental tobacco smoke, and it accounts for 85% of the passive smoking exposure. If you heat tobacco instead of burning it, this does not happen. So you eliminate 85% of the passive smoking risk. The remaining 15% comes from the exhaled aerosol of the user. A cigarette has 100% of the harmful chemicals at high levels. The alternative products have 95% to 99% less harmful chemicals, depending on the product.

What about people who insist on smoking traditional cigarettes? Do you have any plans to make them less harmful?

A: The problem with traditional cigarettes is that they burn tobacco, and that generates harmful chemicals. There is no effective way to filter them out completely. You can add a filter, but that may only lower some types of chemicals, not others. The reason why we developed heated tobacco products is because the best way to reduce exposure is to avoid generating harmful chemicals in the first place. Once you burn tobacco, you cannot undo the damage.

Therefore, burning is the problem. We could produce the best tobacco in the world, or we could change the tobacco or add filters, but ultimately, if you burn it, you will inhale harmful chemicals. That is why we need to help smokers switch to heated tobacco products or other products that do not burn tobacco. That is the solution.

With all these investments and scientific research, is there a possibility to reach a nicotine-free product?

I will start by saying that there are very few things in life that are risk-free. It is all about reducing risks as much as you can. The second piece of the puzzle is what we can do. We could deliver a product today that is without any harm at all, it is called cessation, but you have to find something that is satisfying enough for a smoker. The goal is to find something in between. Something satisfying, with as little harm as possible, and then continues to innovate. So yes, we are developing nicotine-free products.

 Do you intend to eliminate smoking products in the long term?

Yes, we are working towards a smoke-free future. We are not aiming for a tobacco-free or nicotine-free future, but a future where smoke and combustion are eliminated. We know that as a company, we need to change and adapt. That is why we are also exploring wellness and healthcare products, using the expertise that we gained from studying tobacco products. This will be the future.

In 2021, we acquired two different drug manufacturing companies to expand our portfolio.

So you will see in the future, products that we sell that have nothing to do with tobacco and nicotine. But we are not there yet. We are moving in that direction.

Are you planning to add more smoke-free products besides oral, IQOS and vape products?

Yes, we continue to innovate to serve our customers, based on the science and the satisfaction of our products. We will come up with new innovative products, both on the device side and the consumable side.

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