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TOKYO: The head of tobacco giant Philip Morris said the company aims to phase out conventional cigarettes in Japan within 10 years, in an interview with the Nikkei business daily published Friday.

The Marlboro maker announced in 2016 a long-term goal to stop selling cigarettes and replace them with alternatives that it says are less harmful — but this is the first time it has given a timeline. “We want Japan to be the first market” for the phase-out, newly appointed CEO Jacek Olczak told the Nikkei in an interview published in Japanese, adding that the company hoped to “realise a smoke-free society in Japan within 10 years.”

Philip Morris International is betting on its IQOS: a sort of short cigarette inserted into a device that heats the tobacco and releases a vapour.

Olczak told the Nikkei they “plan to introduce devices using new technologies”.

Japan, considered by some a smoker’s paradise, has long been an outlier in the developed world for cigarette use.

Under a law that came into effect in 2020, lighting up regular cigarettes is banned in most restaurants, while heated products are allowed while eating and drinking when certain conditions are met.

Japan’s government earns billions of dollars annually in cigarette tax revenue, and owns a one-third stake in Japan Tobacco, the world’s third largest tobacco company. Smoking in the street is banned in many places under local regulations that impose hefty fines on violators.

Cigarettes cost only around 450 ($4) to 570 yen a pack and carry modest health warning labels. Despite that, tobacco use in Japan has been falling, in line with a broader global trend.

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