2 minutes of your time: Martin Inkster

Martin Inkster

Increasingly innovative alternatives to traditional tobacco are making big market inroads. Manufacturer Philip Morris International may just have stolen a lead with their IQOS heated tobacco system, marketed as HEETS, which Martin Inkster, UK and Ireland Managing Director, hails as an important first in this country.


Martin Inkster is UK and Ireland managing director at Philip Morris International. He’s held the post for over four years, and it’s his latest senior appointment for the global tobacco manufacturer.

From a sales background, Inkster has a wealth of previous experience in Asian and Pacific markets with the company.

Educated at the British School in the Netherlands, he is now based in Richmond, London, where the company oversees a range of traditional products and innovations.

So, what’s the technology behind the IQOS heated tobacco solution?

IQOS heats tobacco without burning, generating a nicotine containing vapour that has on average less than 10% of the levels of harmful constituents found in cigarette smoke. The vapour generated by IQOS is significantly less toxic than cigarette smoke and is likely to be less harmful than continuing to smoke. It also does not adversely affect indoor air quality and is not a source of second-hand smoke.

You see this as part of the way forward then?

We have invested $3bn to date in research and development and employed over 400 world class scientists in relation to our portfolio of reduced risk products. Our studies on IQOS are well advanced and the data to date clearly points in the direction of risk reduction.

How does this benefit smokers?

Based on our studies, IQOS is likely to be less harmful than continued smoking. In addition, it generates no ash, no smoke, less smell and has no adverse impact on indoor air quality. Based on the encouraging results from commercialisation in other countries, we are confident that this would be enough to encourage switching for many smokers.

Where do you position heated tobacco in the market?

This is a product for existing adult smokers only but we know there are smokers who have tried other alternatives such as e-cigarettes but haven’t fully switched to them. So IQOS is designed with those people in mind; smokers who are looking for a potentially reduced risk alternative, but enjoy the ritual of smoking and the taste of tobacco.

What’s the commercial advantage for the retailer who stocks a heated tobacco system?

The opening of the first UK IQOS store in London was a significant milestone but represents only the initial stage of our venture into the UK. We look forward to sharing our further expansion plans with retailers in the near future. With their valued support we have experienced strong volume and share of market results since transitioning from our distribution agreement to managing our own business. In due time, we expect the same with HEETS.

How does the price point compare with other tobacco based products?

The cost of an IQOS device for registered users will be £45 and a single pack of 20 tobacco sticks, which come in three different flavours and are branded HEETS, will cost £8 (or £7 in a multi-pack).

You obviously see this as a growing market, so is getting to market first a significant commercial advantage for Philip Morris?

We are working towards a future where we no longer produce conventional cigarettes – IQOS is definitely a step towards this. To get there will take many years and will take continued innovation in the industry.

Why should retailers get on board?

Our goal is to convert existing smokers to these products and we have every intention of using today’s highly efficient and broad distribution and retail network once a meaningful consumer demand exists. We believe that reduced risk products will help sustain a viable business, satisfying adults that choose to continue to use tobacco products.