Back in 2017, the tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) had officially laid out its “smoke-free future” vision. Paradoxical as it may sound, PMI stands still on its new ambition. The promotions are intensive with campaigns such as “Hold My Light” and “UnSmoke Your World” going on. The aim is to provide smokers with a healthier alternative. After all, going smoke-free is not for everyone. Speaking at the Concordia Annual Summit 2020, PMI’s CEO Andre Calantzopoulos asserted that many had switched to their flagship product- IQOS. Over 11.2 million smokers had made this choice. He also mentioned that “a future in which cigarettes are obsolete is within reach”. Many countries will stop selling cigarettes in 10-15 years, with “right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society” as he added.
THS marketed as IQOS
PMI’s current smoke-free product portfolio includes four products in total. Each of them is in various stages of development and commercialization. Tobacco Heating System (THS) is the first to be launched in 2014, marketed as IQOS. It is now available internationally, covering 57 markets. Contrary to a traditional cigarette, IQOS heats tobacco instead of burning it. It heats tobacco to 350 °C and generates a flavorful nicotine-containing vapour. The entire process involves no combustion at all. There are two versions available. The first consists of a heated tobacco unit called HEETS, a holder, and a charger. Whereas the second is an integrated version, eliminating the recharging of battery for multiple uses.
Combustion is the primary source of harm instead of nicotine
When there is no combustion, there will be fewer risks to smokers. This is the core concept that drives the development of IQOS. Nicotine is perceived as the culprit of morbidity and mortality. But PMI states otherwise, claiming that combustion should be blamed instead. Yes, nicotine does make people addicted. But it does not carry the same risks as the chemicals in tobacco smoke. The mixture of these harmful chemicals is the killer, according to the FDA.
IQOS is not as what PMI has claimed
Based on a study by the University of California, IQOS is not strictly a “heat-not-burn” tobacco product as claimed. Upon heating, the polymer-film filter may pose potential harms through the release of a toxicant – formaldehyde cyanohydrin. The study emphasizes the need for further safety testing, seeing the growing popularity of IQOS. Meanwhile, WHO has made it clear that all forms of tobacco are detrimental. There is no such thing as a “safe level of exposure to tobacco”. Heated tobacco products (HTP) produce nicotine-contained aerosols and toxicants during the heating process. They are toxic and carcinogenic, just like all other tobacco products. IQOS is among the examples listed by WHO, along with Ploom, glo, and PAX vaporizers.
FDA Authorizes Marketing of IQOS with ‘Reduced Exposure’ Information
As of July 2020, FDA has authorized the marketing of IQOS as modified risk tobacco products (MRTPs). This makes IQOS the first tobacco product to receive “exposure modification” orders. The issuance of this order is expected to benefit the population’s health. With that, PMI can now market IQOS as a product that reduces the exposure of users to harmful chemicals. Nevertheless, this MRTP order is not equivalent to FDA approval. The company must conduct post-market surveillance and studies for further reviews of this order.
More Information About:
- 2020 Concordia Annual Summit speech by André Calantzopoulos
- Tobacco Meets Technology
- FDA Authorizes Marketing of IQOS Tobacco Heating System with ‘Reduced Exposure’ Information
Prepared by: Yin Theng