Philip Morris CEO calls Canada’s response to vaping, e-cigarettes ‘puzzling’

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The CEO of one of the world’s largest tobacco companies says he’s puzzled by the Canadian government’s refusal to implement a separate set of regulations around products that contain tobacco but don’t burn it.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, André Calantzopoulos said Philip Morris International hopes to achieve a smoke-free future by pushing its newer vaping and e-cigarette products on the international market.

“It’s puzzling to me that the Canadian government does not provide itself with the ability to evaluate these products,” said Calantzopoulos, noting that legislation currently making its way through the House of Commons extends existing restrictions on marketing and selling cigarettes to vaping and e-cigarettes.

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“It assumes that all tobacco products are the same, actually they are not,” Calantzopoulos argued.

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“I think it’s very wrong to believe that and also tell consumers that smoke that all tobacco products are the same. They are not, and I think that there is enough science to demonstrate this.”

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That science, however, is being funded to a large extent by the big tobacco companies themselves. One study from Public Health England, however, found that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking. Another recent study in the British Medical Journal found that increased e-cigarette use coincided with a significant increase in the number of people quitting smoking.

WATCH: Extended interview with CEO of Philip Morris International.
Extended interview with CEO of Philip Morris International
Extended interview with CEO of Philip Morris International

Philip Morris recently announced $1 billion for what it calls an arm’s-length foundation that will fund scientific research designed to eliminate the use of smoked tobacco. Anti-tobacco groups in Canada have slammed the effort, calling it a “ploy.”

But the company says it is already seeing 8,000 smokers switch to non-burning tobacco products around the world every day.

“What we would like to have in Canada is something similar to what the (American) FDA has done and announced recently,” said Calantzopoulos.

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Study suggests underage teens can easily buy e-cigarettes
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That would include rigorous assessment of new products and evaluation by governments, he said, plus “appropriate” communication to consumers, rules on how to manufacture products and regulatory measures that will accelerate switching over.

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The tobacco CEO noted that despite all efforts, four million Canadians still smoke and will continue to do so. If Canada is serious about reaching a target of just five per cent of the population smoking by 2035, he added, it should be more open to promoting non-combustible products.

“I recognize that we have a credibility gap here, and I don’t ask people to trust what I’m saying, but verify the product we put on the market and the science we provide. I’m always welcoming and calling for independent verification.”

Watch the full interview with Philip Morris CEO André Calantzopoulos above.