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Philip Morris, the Swiss tobacco giant behind Marlboro, has begun talking about a future in which it no longer sells cigarettes and no it is not referring to electric cigarettes.

There was a time when the Marlboro cigarette seemed synonymous with the great outdoors, the Marlboro smoking cowboy, he was everywhere. A man's cigarette.

Those days are gone, even so Marlboro is the world's best-selling cigarette.

It's latest IQOS product, recently revealed, is not an electronic cigarette, rather than vaporising tobacco, it heats tobacco producing a vapour, rendering less harmful toxins, or so says the company. The smoker can buy a pack of twenty for a slated price of £8, while the IQOS device costs £45.

Within the UK, at the moment, it only available in London.

But in an interview on Radio Four's Today Programme, André Calantzopoulos, the chief executive of Philip Morris International said: "I believe that there will come a moment in time where we have sufficient adoption of this alternative product and sufficient awareness to start envisaging – together with governments – a phase-out period for cigarettes. I hope this time will come soon.”

Now this really is a good example of fighting disruption. We keep hearing about disruptive technology, but with Philip Morris, technology is being applied to try and save it from disruption.

And whatever your thoughts about smoking, this is a lesson that can be applied to any industry.

The theory known as innovators dilemma shows how dominant companies within an industry can be turned to irrelevance as technology changes the fundament nature of an industry's products. For example, in the classic example given by Harvard Professor Clayton Christiansen, the key players in the disc drive industry changed as the most popular disc drive shifted from 12 inch to eight inch to five and quarter inch to three and a half inch.

We have seen innovators dilemma writ large in the story of Kodak, and Nokia and we may see it again as car makers respond to the challenge of electric and autonomous cars.

But in the case of the tobacco business, technology is being used to support players, even so, the rise of electronic cigarettes poses a threat to traditional tobacco firms in a way that is illustrative of innovators dilemma.

Returning to André Calantzopoulos, he also said: “Consumers choose to use cigarettes. I don’t think Philip Morris invented cigarettes. For us, it’s to offer our consumers the best product we can in a category that we all know is addictive and causes harm.

“Once we have the alternative, as we have today, we offer them the alternative and we will do everything we can to convince [people] to switch to these products.”