Philip Morris International, the world's largest international tobacco company, could eventually stop selling cigarettes, its chief executive told the BBC on Wednesday, as it launched its alternative product IQOS in the UK market.

The company's IQOS smokeless cigarette which is already on sale in over a dozen markets including Japan, Switzerland and Italy, heats tobacco enough to produce a vapor without burning it. The company believes that makes it much less harmful than cigarettes.

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"I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products ... to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes," Andre Calantzopoulos said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.

"I hope this time will come soon," he added.