BAT to launch heat-not-burn tobacco in S. Korea next week

SEOUL-- British American Tobacco (BAT) will begin sales of its new tobacco heating device in South Korea next week, its local unit said Thursday, joining the race to better grab the expanding market.

The new gadget glo is shaped like any other battery-powered cigarette devices, except tobacco sticks called Neostiks, are inserted into it. Unlike regular combustible cigarettes, glo heats Neostiks rather than burns, and there is no ash produced, BAT Korea said.

It will be available at the company's flagship store in southern Seoul starting Sunday, and at another outlet in the popular university district of Hongdae at the end of this month, the company said.

"We are absolutely thrilled to announce the launch of BAT's innovative next-generation product in Korea," BAT Korea CEO Tony Hayward said. "With its competitive advantages in convenience and easy-to-use design, we expect glo to gain immense popularity among adult smokers in Korea."

BAT Korea plans to expand its sales nationwide starting next year.

The retail price of the new tobacco product is set at 90,000 won (US$79), lower than its rival Philip Morris' iQOS priced at 120,000 won. Philip Morris first launched the smokeless tobacco device iQOS in South Korea in June.

A pack of 20 Neostiks will be sold for 4,300 won at local convenience store chain GS25 in the capital city. A pack of cigarettes costs around 4,500 won here.

BAT said it has invested $1.5 billion over the last six years to develop next-generation smoking products, including glo.

South Korea is the second market BAT is releasing the new smokeless product in after Japan, according to the company.

"Glo has already gained massive popularity in Sendai after its launch in 2016 and has expanded sales to Tokyo, Miyagi and Osaka in July this year," BAT Korea said.

Yet, the release of glo is expected to draw criticism among anti-smoking advocates here amid the government's active policy engagement to make the country smoking-free.

While BAT and Philip Morris claim that their heat-not-burn products create 90 percent fewer toxicants than a standard cigarette, a recent experiment suggested that the new type of tobacco actually produces similar levels of harmful chemicals.

Following the controversy, South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety earlier said it will launch an inspection on iQOS' possible health risks starting this month.

In addition to safety issues, the new type of cigarettes are under scrutiny for their tax benefits. E-cigarettes are levied with taxes that are only 50 to 60 percent of those on conventional cigarettes.

An opposition lawmaker has recently introduced a revision to existing rules, demanding a hike on the heat-not-burn type cigarettes based on their similarities with the conventional cigarettes.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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