Philip Morris says cigarettes may become obsolete within 10 to 15 years in some markets.

Philip Morris Marlboro

Philip Morris International Inc. signaled that cigarettes may start becoming obsolete within a decade in some markets as smokers switch to alternative products for nicotine.

“I am convinced it is possible to completely end cigarette sales in many countries within 10 to 15 years,” Chief Executive Officer Andre Calantzopoulos said in a sustainability report published Tuesday. He said the help of regulators is needed to make that possible.

The maker of Marlboro and Chesterfield cigarettes has been saying it sees a “smoke-free future,” and now has started giving a concrete timeline. Philip Morris has a lead in smoking alternatives with its IQOS heated-tobacco device, though competitors such as Juul has been nipping at its heels. The company gets almost a fifth of its revenue from non-combustible products.

While the company insists its smoking alternatives are less harmful than cigarettes, some health groups have expressed concern that heat-not-burn products expose consumers to other toxins and argue long-term effects are not yet known. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved IQOS for sale in the U.S. last year, though stopped short of ruling whether it can be marketed as less risky than cigarettes.

The company set a target three years ago that at least 40 million adult smokers will have stopped smoking and switched to its smoke-free products by 2025. Philip Morris estimates nearly 14 million consumers were IQOS users at the end of 2019, with almost 10 million having quit cigarettes. There are some 1.3 billion tobacco users globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has campaigned and given money in support of a U.S. ban on flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco.

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