Smoking isn’t cool anymore.
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For the first time in more than 50 years the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes has declined to less than 40 million.
Tobacco giants, like Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, now have to rethink how they plan to keep their $80 billion dollar revenue stream afloat as the tobacco industry faces the prospect of decline.
Phillip Morris is hoping it found an answer in its new iQOS device; a type of electronic cigarette that heats rather than burns tobacco. For health conscious consumers the device could contain a reduction of "more than 90%" of harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarette smoke.
However, a Philip Morris spokesperson told FOXBusiness.com that the device is still being reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so it is unable to “make any health-related claims for the product in the U.S.”
The product is currently being sold in several countries, including Japan—where it is already making big waves in the smoking community, according to PMI.
“To date, Philips Morris International’s heated-tobacco product has helped over one million cigarette smokers switch from conventional cigarettes since its initial pilot launch in Nagoya, Japan and Milan, Italy in 2014,” a spokesperson told FOXBusiness.com.
The results already have the company’s CEO, Andre Calantzopoulos, thinking of phasing out traditional cigarettes altogether.
“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products … to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” he told BBC Radio 4 last week.
But PMI isn’t the only one feeling the heat. China National Tobacco Corporation, which accounts for roughly 30% of total cigarette consumption around the world, is also seeing sales decline. Similar to the trend seen in the U.S., Chinese tobacco consumption has dropped 2.4% (about 60 billion cigarettes) from last year, the first fall since 1995, according to data from Euromonitor.
The decline comes as consumers’ emphasis on health and wellness continues to soar. In addition, the rise of excise taxes across the world may also be serving as a deterrent.
According the CDC smoking rates are inversely related to education levels. More than 34% of smokers had a G.E.D., whereas people with a graduate degree accounted for just 4% of the overall smoking population.
Even light smoking—as little as one cigarette a day—can reportedly increase someone’s risk of dying early, according to a new study from the National Cancer Institute.
“A key finding from our study was that even participants who regularly smoked less than 1 cigarette per day had 1.6 times higher risk of dying during the study than people who never smoked. Those low-intensity smokers benefited from smoking cessation, with risk lower for those who quit at younger ages,” Maki Inoue-Choi, an epidemiologist at NCI told FOXBusiness.com.
Nevertheless, more than a billion people still smoke tobacco worldwide, proving a lot more work needs to be done.