FRANKFURT, Germany — Not all cigarette butts are trash.
At a Philip Morris International lab on a Swiss lake, researcher Bertrand Bonvin insists the butts of the Marlboro maker’s next-generation tobacco products be burned after testing, lest the proprietary technology in them sneak out.
Despite the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, Bonvin and his peers at the biggest tobacco companies are still looking for their holy grail: a product that will hook nicotine-craving smokers like conventional cigarettes, without the health downfalls. Such an item could reignite stocks in the $760 billion industry, which have stagnated over the past 12 months amid falling sales and increased restrictions on smoking.
“The problem with cigarettes is the way nicotine is delivered, and all the by-products of burning tobacco,” said Bonvin, the company’s head of research. “There is a space for e-cigarettes, but there are concerns about quality and the lack of regulation.”
Battery powered e-cigarettes deliver vaporized nicotine and light up when puffed; the process is called “vaping.” The newer devices that Bonvin is working on are the result of years of research in labs like PMI’s facility, and show how far tobacco technology has come since previous attempts at so-called “harm-reduction” devices flopped.
PMI, the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company, is putting tobacco in its new product to satisfy smokers’ cravings for the taste of a conventional cigarette like the Marlboro man cowboy used to smoke.