Exclusive Interview with Mr. Tarkan Demirbas, Vice President Middle East at Philip Morris Management Services

Exclusive Interview with Mr. Tarkan Demirbas, Vice President Middle East at Philip Morris Management Services at the launch of First IQOS Boutique at The Dubai Mall, the first of its kind in the whole of GCC.

Philip Morris International (PMI) is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, and its shareholders.

PMI is a leading international tobacco company engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, as well as smoke-free products and associated electronic devices and accessories, and other nicotine-containing products in markets outside the United States.

PMI ships a version of its smoke-free devices and consumables authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to Altria Group, Inc. for sale in the United States under license. PMI is building a future on a new category of smoke-free products that, while not risk-free, are a much better choice than continuing to smoke.

Through multidisciplinary capabilities in product development, state-of-the-art facilities, and scientific substantiation, PMI aims to ensure that its smoke-free products meet adult consumer preferences and rigorous regulatory requirements

Q: What is the reason behind opening an IQOS Store in Dubai?

It is a great pleasure for us to announce the opening of the first IQOS Boutique at The Dubai Mall, the first of its kind in the whole of GCC. This milestone is a testament to our commitment to a smoke-free future in the GCC, a future where adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke would switch to better alternatives backed by rigorous science and pioneering technology. The IQOS Boutique will offer the UAE adult smokers an experiential space to discover such better alternatives and will provide support and care during their conversion journey. It will also offer to the existing adult IQOS users in the UAE a world that reassures them of the better choice they’ve made, and that keeps them inspired and engaged in the smoke-free chapter of their life.

Q: Do you have plans to expand the business further by opening more boutiques in UAE?

Currently, more than 200 IQOS Boutiques exist in around 35 markets worldwide, including Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Colombia, etc. When it comes to the GCC, the IQOS Boutique at The Dubai Mall is the first Boutique of its kind and this accomplishment make us exceptionally proud and delighted, as it is a step forward towards our smoke-free vision. In the Middle East, there is another IQOS Boutique in Ramallah, Palestine.

             Q:  How do you expect IQOS to perform in the UAE?

I personally believe that IQOS is a product that will appeal to men and women who smoke and would otherwise continue smoking in the GCC. Let me tell you why I believe that.  They are technologically savvy, they’re interested in the latest innovations, and they are looking for better alternatives. When you combine that with the way they are considerate of their surroundings, I think they’d be very open to products that can offer benefits for both – them and those around them. IQOS offers just that – not only innovation but also additional hygiene and lifestyle benefits, including a cleaner way of enjoying tobacco with no smoke, no ash, and less smell.  These are benefits for both the IQOS users and those around them.

Q: Is IQOS a cessation device? 

Absolutely not.  To be very clear, the best thing a smoker or nicotine user can do is quit, but the reality is that many don’t.  IQOS and the other products in our smoke-free portfolio, while not risk free, are a better choice than cigarettes and are intended for adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking.

Q: Can you tell us more about PMI’s business transformation model?

We are making significant investments to transition, over time, our entire value chain to smoke-free products. We believe that these changes will bring additional opportunities for our existing partners and create opportunities for new partnerships.

Because of the significant prevalence of smokers in this region, I believe that one of, if not the biggest opportunity we have to contribute to its future, is to help ensure that men and women who smoke are aware of the existence of better alternatives, like IQOS, and convince them to switch if they would otherwise continue smoking. 

Q: Recently the US FDA authorized the marketing of IQOS as a MRTP. What does this mean?

That was an important and historic date. On July 7, 2020 the US Food and Drug Administration – more commonly referred to as the FDA – authorized IQOS device, along with three different HeatSticks variants, to be marketed in the US with reduced exposure information. As you are probably aware, the FDA is a federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It is responsible for regulating, among other things, the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products in the US to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors.

The decision makes IQOS the first and only tobacco heating system that has completed the Modified Risk Tobacco Product application process.

Q: What did FDA conclude with respect to health risks of IQOS?

The FDA decision came after several years of reviews of all of the scientific evidence available on IQOS. After having reviewed the totality of scientific evidence available for IQOS, both PMI’s and independent evidence, the FDA concluded that:


  • The IQOS system heats tobacco but does not burn it.
  • This significantly reduces the production of harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.
  • Scientific studies have shown that switching completely from cigarettes to the IQOS system significantly reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.

The FDA’s decision shows that IQOS is a fundamentally different product compared to cigarettes. IQOS is a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking.

For the past 10 years, PMI built a team of more than 400 scientists and R&D experts and has significantly invested towards one goal: creating an alternative to cigarettes for those adult smokers who want a better choice than continued smoking. So we are proud to celebrate this milestone on our journey and we are committed to continue delivering on our promises.

Q: What does PMI’s research says about MRTP and what harm reduction promise does it present to its customers?

We are conducting extensive and rigorous studies to demonstrate that, compared with smoking, switching to our smoke-free products results in a significant reduction in the risk of smoking-related disease. Our research is inspired by well-recognized practices of the pharmaceutical industry and is in line with guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) applications. It includes laboratory research, clinical studies among adult smokers, and research to understand the potential benefits of the product for the public health, including how smokers perceive the product’s risk and how they use the product in real-life conditions. We also study actual use once the product is on the market.

More than 30,000 assessments of IQOS’s aerosol consistently have found that the IQOS emits on average 95 percent* lower levels of harmful chemicals compared with cigarettes.** In addition to the work of our own scientists, some of those studies were conducted by an accredited laboratory, with the results published on http://www.pmiscience.com and in peer-reviewed publications.

Q: Apart from the UAE, will PMI launch the campaign for a smoke free future in other GCC countries?

As stated before, in PMI we are committed to offering better alternatives to adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke and we are focusing our efforts and resources to get there as soon as possible.

UAE was the first country in the GCC where IQOS was introduced. In December 2018, IQOS was first launched in Dubai Duty Free. This launch was followed by the introduction of IQOS in the domestic UAE market in July 2019, a bit more than a year ago. Recently, in July 2020, IQOS also made its entry in Saudi Arabia. And in September this year, HEETS consumables were launched in Kuwait, and very soon IQOS will also be available in the Kuwaiti market.

As you can see our commitment to a smoke-free GCC stays firm and we hope that we will be able to get there as soon as possible for the benefit of adult smokers and the people who care for them.

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