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Marlboro HeatSticks to appear on sale in Milan this week

Philip Morris International, the biggest tobacco firm around the world, intends to release its innovative iQOS smokeless gadget and Marlboro HeatSticks in Milan, Italy tomorrow on November, 29 adhering to a better-than-expected release in Nagoya, Japan earlier in this November.

With a battery-operated system that heats, without burning, small tubes of tobacco called Marlboro HeatSticks, the iQOS is a hybrid between regular cigarettes and next-generation electronic cigarettes.

iQOS Marlboro Heatstick

New Marlboro-branded product, together with one marketed by Japan Tobacco, are designed to be less dangerous than conventional cigarettes but more attractive for smokers than electronic cigarettes, which vaporize nicotine-laced liquid.

The strong market for e-cigarettes is a major arena for Big Tobacco competitors such as Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco. Cigarette sales are dropping as smokers worldwide give up smoking.

"Even though it is early days, our results already exceed our anticipations," Morgan Stanley, Philip Morris Chief Executive Andre Calantzopoulos said of the Nov. 4 introduction in Japan, where the kit has a recommended price of 6,980 yen ($59.31) and the plug-in HeatSticks, which resemble mini cigarettes, cost 460 yen ($3.91) for a pack of 20, consistent with regular Marlboro cigarettes.

In Europe, where taxes are higher, the suggested price of the set is 70 euros ($87.87) while a pack of sticks is 5 euros ($6.28). Italy has categorized HeatSticks for excise tax purposes at a rate comparable to conventional cigarettes, but Calantzopoulos expects a law change will lower the rate.

The company is offering product benefits such as no fire, no ash and less smell, but is making no health statements.

Releases outside Italy and Japan are not predicted until 2016 because of short-term limitations on producing capacity.

Philip Morris offered for sale 880.2 billion cigarettes in 2013, a drop of 5%. It says it could sell 30 to 50 billion more sticks if its "reduced risk" goods were accepted by 3-5% of smokers in the markets it intends to enter in the next five years.