Philip Morris unveils new e-cigarette in S. Korea

SEOUL-- Philip Morris International Inc. said Wednesday its new e-cigarette device that contains tobacco leaves will go on sale in South Korea starting early next month.

The local unit of the global tobacco company, Philip Morris Korea, said IQOS, the brand of its new tobacco product, will be available in Seoul from June 5 onwards with sales to gradually reach other cities and regions in the country by the second half.

The IQOS is shaped like any other battery-powered cigarette device, except a solid material made of tobacco leaves, known as Heets, can be inserted into the body which heats it up once it's turned on.

Philip Morris explained that the IQOS is relatively harmless compared to common cigarettes because of the fact that it heats the tobacco, instead of burning it. Existing e-cigarettes come with nicotine-laced liquid.

"Philip Morris has invested about 3.4 trillion won since 2008 in developing a tobacco product that 'doesn't burn.' While anti-smoking policy should of course continue to be implemented, we think as much that it's our job as a tobacco company to create a less harmful product for those who wish to smoke," Chong Il-woo, the managing director of Phillip Morris Korea said at a media briefing in Seoul earlier in the day.

The average retail price of the new pipe-type cigarette is set at 120,000 won (US$107) and a 20-pack of Heets will be sold for 4,300 won. A pack of cigarettes costs around 4,500 won in Korea.

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

Some experts claimed that allowing a quasi-cigarette product throws cold water on efforts in both public and private sectors toward reducing the national smoking rate. Part of such anti-smoking measures include the obligation of placing a health warning label on all cigarette packages sold here, which took effect from late last year.

Since the IQOS has been categorized as an e-cigarette, it will be levied at a lower tax rate, as opposed to the 75 percent levied for a pack of normal cigarettes, which was raised in early 2015.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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