Philip Morris to Develop Flu Vaccines from Tobacco Plant

Published on December 4th, 2012 00:00

Marlboro is the world’s best-selling cigarette brand, but it has a minute 0.5% share of the market in China, where about a quarter of the population light up. At present, Philip Morris International (PMI), which manufacturers and sells Marlboro outside the U.S., is trying to increase its revenue in that huge Asian nation by moving beyond regular tobacco products. 

tobacco plant

In one interesting attempt, it is elaborating flu vaccines made from a sort of tobacco plant. In another project, closer to its main business, it is creating less hazardous cigarettes, which it would plant to distribute all over the world, nut mostly paying attention on China, where approximately 45% of the world’s cigarettes are smoked but the state-owned China National Tobacco enjoys a monopoly. PMI already owns about 35% of Medicago, a small biopharmaceutical company. It also has an objective of diversifying its product portfolio.

At a recent press conference, PMI admitted that distribution of regular cigarettes will be quite difficult in China, where the government receives tens of billions of dollars in revenue from tobacco. Cigarette sales in the country exceeded $160 billion in 2011, approximately a quarter of the world market, according to findings. “To come with new technologies is the only chance to enter China market. That is why we are currently developing innovative cigarettes that are less dangerous than traditional smokes,” said Philip Morris Chairman Louis Camilleri. Nowadays there are increasing worries about tobacco products in China. Health authorities are implementing many regulations and make public establishments smoke free.
The cigarette giant is investing millions of dollars in the development of less-dangerous cigarettes and producers have called the strategy as a possible “game changer” in China. Philip Morris has started discussing its plans with Chinese officials. The new cigarettes are planned to be launched before 2017. According to PMI, China flu business hinges on the positive completion on clinical tests. Medicago is occupied with development of flu vaccines made from Nicotiana benthamiana, an extract from tobacco plant used in smoking products. Both the innovative cigarettes and the flu vaccines are estimated to take several years to appear on the market.

Philip Morris entered China market in 2005, when it signed a strategic partnership with China National Tobacco (CNTC). In accordance with an agreement CNTC started to manufacture Marlboro brand in China. PMI also promotes CNTC cigarette brands outside China.

By Joanna Johnson, Staff Writer.
Copyright © 2012 All rights reserved.

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