Up in smoke

Cigarette sales tank in Mexico as new product regulation stalls.

There is nothing like a global pandemic of an acute respiratory illness to hammer cigarette sales. In Mexico, November figures showed a 25% drop versus the same period last year, meaning 658.2 million fewer packs of cigarettes sold.

A director of a tobacco company in Mexico comments, “We believe the concern that has been generated this year, as a result of the pandemic, will shine a light on lung health. We could see more of a shift to heat-based products such as IQOS due to reduced health concerns but vaping has been banned in Mexico. This adds to the 17-year trend of a clear decline in tobacco use in Mexico.”

Regulation of next generation tobacco products has been a challenge in Mexico. The import of all vaping products was banned by Presidential decree in February 2020. The Supreme Court of Justice prevent Grupo Sanborns from importing vaping products, but allowed it to sell devices that heat tobacco rather than burning it, such as IQOS by Phillip Morris International.

The tobacco company director continues, “IQOS has the potential to go mainstream but we have had regulatory limitations as the General Health Law does not provide for these products. The November protection given by the Supreme Court of Justice gave us the opportunity to continue selling, but we are still limited, so it would be ideal for a general regulatory process to begin in the near future to consider it a low-risk product.”

“IQOS has the potential to go mainstream but we have had regulatory limitations as the General Health Law does not provide for these products.”

Tobacco company director, Mexico

According to a senior official at the regulator’s office in Mexico, the director could be waiting a while, “Currently, there are no plans to make specific regulation to cover devices such as IQOS. Furthermore, at present, where there is a legitimate and reasonable concern for respiratory diseases, it seems difficult to initiate a process to make the consumption of a substance with direct effects on health more flexible. The government was clear that it will adhere to the recommendations of the health sector so, until there is sufficient scientific evidence that heating does not damage health, I don’t believe much will change.”

“Currently, there are no plans to make specific regulation to cover devices such as IQOS.”

Senior official, regulator’s office, Mexico

The regulator’s view seems to agree with the experience of the tobacco companies, “We have been positioning the product and studies with a view to being taken into account by the authority, but so far there has been little feedback and there is no clear horizon of when the necessary changes could occur to boost IQOS.”

Cigarette volumes declining, vaping banned and regulatory limitations on heat-based products – challenging times for tobacco in Mexico.

 

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