Stefano Volpetti is a non-smoker and self-described health freak, so he wasn’t quite sure what to think about working for a company best known for manufacturing cigarettes. Now President, Smoke-Free Products, and Chief Consumer Officer for Philip Morris International, he feels honoured to cover the critical role of smoke-free alternatives for adult smokers during the company’s historic transition.
“Working to change the trajectory of public health gives me the greatest purpose I have ever had in my professional life,” says Volpetti. “Every day that my colleagues and I do a good job at Philip Morris International (PMI), we know that we’re taking a step towards ending cigarette sales globally.”
Volpetti joined ITWC CMO Fawn Annan for a February 2023 installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series designed by ITWC to showcase strategies for gaining a competitive edge through the intersection of brand-building and technology. Their discussion centered on the marketing role as it relates to giving adult smokers scientifically substantiated alternatives to smoking.
The Future is Smoke-free
A specialist in consumer-centric marketing and business model transformation, Volpetti explains that his division, smoke-free products, presently accounts for about 30 percent of PMI’s business, with expectations that this number reach 50 percent by 2025. At some point in the near future, he surmises that very few people will remember that PMI was once a cigarette company.
In reply to a question from Annan, Volpetti defines the top objective for his division as providing access to smoke-free alternatives to smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. He explains that by removing combustion from the equation, these products eliminate 95% of the harmful chemicals emitted from burning tobacco.
Something for Everyone
Volpetti is enthusiastic when sharing the PMI mission with Annan. “The company is very clear about the importance of eliminating cigarettes; with smoke-free alternatives, we now have a portfolio of products that serve the different tastes, pricing, and habit preferences of adult smokers around the world ” he says. “Accompanying the smoker in the transition journey is very important for us.”
The New Category is a Team Effort
He is equally vocal that although creating a totally new category is first and foremost a consumer-centric exercise, It is also key to closely work with third-parties who can affect access to information for adult smokers around the world.. “The magic really comes when regulators, manufacturers, and retailers work together,” he says.
Making the World a Better Place
A major source of pride for PMI is that smoke-free alternatives have the potential to change the global trajectory of public health.
What’s encouraging is real-world evidence suggesting smoke-free products could have a positive impact on public health. In fact, a peer-reviewed scientific study looked at hospitalization rates in Japan for two serious health conditions: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease from 2013-2020. The study found hospitalizations from these diseases significantly declined after smoke-free products became established in Japan. As there are limitations to these studies, PMI is continuing to build on this encouraging data with further long-term epidemiological studies.
For Stefano Volpetti, it is clearly a step in the right direction, and one he would like to see replicated in more countries. “This is a product that makes a tangible positive difference for smokers around the world,” he says. “The more the regulations allow us to have access to legal age smokers, the more progress we will make.”
The podcast concludes with advice from Volpetti – advice now enshrined in PMI’s vision: If you don’t smoke, don’t start; if you do smoke, quit; and if you don’t quit, switch to a smoke-free alternative.