The Japanese innovation that could help normalise heated tobacco everywhere

Japan was the stand-out success story for Philip Morris International (PMI)’s Iqos from its early days, with the product achieving an astonishing level of market penetration that led some people to over-optimistic projections for the rest of the world.

They haven’t quite come true, even in places where Iqos has done pretty well, confirming that for nicotine products – as for so many things – Japan is an idiosyncratic market, and Japanese consumer tastes can’t be relied on as bellwethers for other markets.

Still, one new development in Japan on which we report this week sets an example which proponents of harm reduction could do well to advocate elsewhere: the increasing trend toward heated-tobacco-only areas in public spaces, replacing those where smoking was allowed.

This has been brought about by regulation as well as the popularity of the products themselves, of course, but (like vaping-only zones) it has two important impacts.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Join in to hear about news, events, and podcasts in the sector

    See more

    First, it signals to everyone – whether they’re actually heated tobacco users or not – that this form of nicotine consumption is considered preferable to smoking. And second, it creates a real benefit for users, not only enabling those who have taken up heated tobacco to stick with it but also perhaps encouraging existing smokers to switch.

    It can be argued that HnB and vaping zones only foster dual use (smoke at home, switch to permissible alternatives out-of-home). That’s certainly a valid objection, and it’s likely that banning all consumption of tobacco and nicotine products is more powerful in pushing some smokers – the more resolute – toward quitting.

    But for those who have less determination to give up, complete bans provide no incentive to reduce risk. Limiting consumption to less harmful alternatives, as these Japanese venues are doing, at least provides the hesitant smoker with another strong reason to change.

    – Barnaby Page TobaccoIntelligence staff

    Photo: Hakuba Happo-one Snow Resort

    Barnaby Page

    Editorial director
    Before joining ECigIntelligence in early 2014 as one of its first employees, Barnaby had a 30-year career as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and online services, working in Canada, the US and the Middle East as well as his current British location. He has edited publications covering fields including technology and the advertising industry, and was launch editor of the first large daily online news service in the British regional media. Barnaby also writes on classical music and film for a number of publications. Barnaby manages the editorial and reporting teams and works closely with the analyst teams, to ensure that all content meets high standards of quality and relevance. He also writes for the site occasionally, mostly on science-related issues, and is a member of the Association of British Science Writers.