When no growth is good growth

It’s apparently not easy to make a company grow when its product kills its customers.

That is the dilemma facing big tobacco companies.

In a column called “Corporate Intelligence” in The Wall Street Journal, Tom Gara describes seeing what Phillip Morris International describes as a “reduced risk product” demonstrated. It is a black tube that has what looks like a miniature cigarette inserted in it. The mini-cigarette is heated high enough to turn the nicotine into a vapor, but not hot enough to create smoke.

The user then inhales the vapor.

Now, these “reduced risk products” have not been approved by regulators and, Gara points out, they don’t even have a name yet. And as changing tobacco addicts to e-cigarettes has proven, it will be a hard sell to get longtime smokers to try the new devices.

So, for the tobacco company to grow, it will have to lure new customers to nicotine addiction through the “reduced risk products.”

Gara points out that even if regulators approve the new product, tobacco companies will have to find a way to market it and explain it to the public. There are, of course, severe restrictions on advertising tobacco products that e-cigarettes don’t face.

So, tobacco companies face an uphill battle in selling this new product. Their success with cigarettes, and the subsequent reluctance of their users to switch, cuts out a potential market. Advertising restrictions will keep them from recruiting too many new users.

One can only hope that those barriers will doom these new addiction devices.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.