TOKYO, March 2 Philip Morris International
said on Thursday it has more than doubled the stock of
its popular iQOS tobacco device in Japan, but demand continues
to outstrip supply even as competition intensifies over
Philip Morris said it has so far sold more than 3 million
iQOS, a battery-powered device that heats tobacco leaves packed
in cigarette shape. The company began nationwide sale in Japan
in April last year after test marketing in major cities.
The product has become an instant hit and a severe supply
shortage has persisted. It is priced at 9,980 yen ($88.30), but
traded at 12,000 yen or more on Internet auction sites.
Paul Riley, president of Philip Morris Japan, told reporters
the company has more than doubled its supply of iQOS since
February and is ramping up the production to meet the demand.
"But the question is what is the demand? We continue to
increase the production but they get sold out as soon as they
hit the stores," he said.
Philip Morris, known for Marlboro, Lark and Parliament
cigarettes, has said its market share in Japan rose 1.7 points
to 27.1 percent in 2016, helped by the popularity of iQOS.
Marlboro HeatSticks, cigarette-like tobacco used for iQOS,
accounted for 7.6 percent of Japan's cigarette market in
January, the company said. It said it will add two flavours in
March to existing four.
iQOS is currently sold in 20 markets, including most notably
Japan, and will be in as many as 30 by the end of this year,
Philip Morris has said.
Global tobacco companies see Japan as a fertile test ground
for "Heat but not burn" tobacco products, since e-cigarettes,
which use nicotine-laced liquid, are not permitted under the
country's pharmaceutical regulation.
British American Tobacco (BAT) has said initial
results were very encouraging for a new tobacco heating device
called glo it launched in Sendai, Japan in December, which takes
aim at iQOS.
Japan Tobacco Inc, which commands over 60 percent
share in domestic cigarette market, said last month it expected
its domestic cigarettes sales volume to decline by 9.6 percent
this year partly because of the growing popularity of tobacco
Japan Tobacco has said it will begin selling Ploom Tech
tobacco-based electronic cigarettes in some parts of Tokyo from
($1 = 113.0300 yen)
(Reporting by Taiga Uranaka)