An affiliate of Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) has opened four stores in the Philippines to offer a “smoke-free” alternative to combustible cigarettes.

The PMFTC Inc. is offering the IQOS brand or its tobacco heating system. This is a smoke-free alternative to cigarettes for adult smokers 21 years old and above.

“We see smoke-free products as an opportunity to reduce the smoking incidence in the Philippines for the benefit of the public health and society at large,” PMFTC President Denis Gorkun said in a statement.

The company made the announcement after a bill regulating the manufacture, sale, and distribution of vapes, e-cigarettes, and other electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems was approved at the committee level at the House of Representatives. The bill will next be deliberated at the plenary level.

PMFTC opened its IQOS stores at the Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City; SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City; SM Southmall in Las Piñas City; and Estancia Mall in Pasig City. It would offer PMI’s line of smoke-free products, devices, heat sticks and a range of accessories.

“Opening the first IQOS stores in the Philippines is a significant step towards achieving our vision of a smoke-free future. PMFTC’s vision is to help adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes as quickly as possible and switch to a better alternative,” Gorkun said.

IQOS has been authorized by the United States (US) Food and Drugs Administration to be marketed in the US.

“The US FDA decision shows that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product compared to cigarettes and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking,” Gorkun said.

He said that minors will not be allowed to use these products.

“We are implementing age verification and access restriction to ensure that only legal age consumers 21 years old and above will have access to the store, the e-commerce website and the IQOS products. Presentation of a valid government-issued ID is required before any product is handed over to the consumer,” Gorkun said.

PMFTC hopes that the IQOS would help bring down the number of smokers that, according to data, has reached 16 million in the Philippines. The World Health Organization had projected that the number of smokers across the world will remain at 1 billion by 2025.

A PMFTC study showed that 60 percent of Filipino adult smokers are willing to try smoke-free alternatives if made available commercially and if they meet quality production standards.

“The best thing a smoker can do is to quit cigarettes and nicotine products entirely. But the hard reality is there will be adults who would continue to smoke. For those who don’t choose to quit, we now have a product that does not burn tobacco,” PMFTC Communications Director Dave Gomez said.