IQOS USA: FAQs

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In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the IQOS Launch in the USA.

What is IQOS?

IQOS is a tobacco heating device developed and marketed by Philip Morris International (PMI). Unlike traditional cigarettes, which burn tobacco to produce smoke, IQOS heats specially designed tobacco units (HeatSticks, marketed under brand names like HEETS or TEREA) to a lower temperature.

The original IQOS system consists of three main parts: the IQOS holder, the IQOS charger, and the tobacco units. The holder heats the tobacco unit, the charger recharges the holder, and the tobacco units contain the processed tobacco. The IQOS ONE is an all-in-one device that combines the IQOS holder and IQOS charger in a single unit.

Users insert a tobacco stick into the IQOS holder and press the start button to activate the heating. In the later generations of IQOS (such as IQOS ILUMA), the heating is activated automatically upon insertion of the tobacco stick (“Autostart” functionality). After 20 seconds of heating, the device produces the aerosol to be inhaled. Each tobacco unit is typically used for around six minutes or 14 puffs, similar to the duration of smoking a cigarette.

IQOS uses an electronically controlled heater to warm the tobacco units to around 350°C (662°F), compared to the 600-900°C (1112-1652°F) of a burning cigarette. This heating process releases a nicotine-containing aerosol that users inhale without combustion and combustion by-products such as ash or lingering smoke.

PMI claims that because IQOS heats rather than burns tobacco, it produces fewer harmful chemicals than conventional cigarettes. However, the health effects and reduced harm claims are still the subject of ongoing research and debate within the scientific and regulatory communities.

IQOS is part of a broader category of tobacco products known as heated tobacco products (HTPs), which also includes other brands and technologies developed by different companies, such as Glo of British American Tobacco (the parent company of Reynolds American), Ploom of Japan Tobacco, and Pulze of Imperial Brands.

Who is the owner of IQOS?

Philip Morris International (PMI) owns the IQOS brand. PMI is frequently confused with Philip Morris USA, the operating company of Altria which sells Marlboro, L&M, Copenhagen, Skoal and other tobacco products in the USA. PMI is the former operating company of Altria which sells Marlboro and other tobacco products outside the USA. On March 28, 2008, Altria completed the spin-off of PMI to its shareholders. Philip Morris USA has no legal rights to the IQOS product and brand consequent to the IQOS Transition Agreement signed between PMI and Altria in October 2022. For further details: IQOS USA: History

Is IQOS legal in the USA?

Yes, IQOS is legal in the USA. Both IQOS 2.4 and IQOS 3 (the previous generation devices with internal blade heating) have received marketing order from the US FDA – which means that Philip Morris International (PMI) is authorized to legally market IQOS 2.4 and IQOS 3 as a new tobacco product in the United States. Previously, IQOS device and the accompanying heatsticks were banned for importation and sale in the United States by the US International Trade Commission due to patent infringement. However, this ban is lifted following the global patent settlement between PMI and British American Tobacco (BAT), the parent company of Reynolds American.

Is IQOS FDA approved?

No, IQOS is not FDA approved. It is FDA authorized; thereby, PMI has the FDA’s permission to legally market IQOS in the USA. However, FDA authorization does not mean that IQOS is “FDA approved” (i.e. safe for use). FDA states that all tobacco products (including IQOS) are harmful and potentially addictive and those who do not use tobacco products shouldn’t start.

Was IQOS ever available in the USA?

Following the US FDA’s authorization of IQOS (i.e. marketing order granted to IQOS 2.4 based on the PMTA review), Philip Morris International (PMI) assigned the exclusive commercialization rights of IQOS in the USA to its former parent company, Altria (also the parent company of Philip Morris USA) for an initial term of five years in April 2019 (i.e. until April 2024). 

Altria set up the www.getiqos.com website in August 2019 and officially launched IQOS (2.4 version) in October 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia (first-ever IQOS sales in the USA). Altria slowly expanded the distribution of IQOS and Marlboro Heatsticks statewide, across Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina until the US International Trade Commission (ITC) imposed an importation ban on IQOS. For further details: IQOS USA: History

Why is IQOS banned in USA? Why IQOS is not available in USA?

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) imposed an importation ban and issued cease-and-desist orders on IQOS and Marlboro HeatSticks on September 29, 2021. The decision was the result of a patent case filed by Reynolds American, the US subsidiary of British American Tobacco (BAT). ITC found that IQOS infringed on two of Reynolds American’s patents. The importation and sales ban took effect after the 60-day review deadline passed without any action by the Biden Administration to overturn the ITC’s order. For further details: IQOS USA: History

IQOS importation ban is removed subsequent to the global patent settlement between PMI and BAT. For further details: Patents Wars

Is IQOS available in the USA? Is IQOS coming back to the USA?

Not yet! Philip Morris International (PMI) will launch IQOS (version 3, internal heating with a blade) in one metropolitan area in the USA in July 2024. This launch will serve as a test for the future IQOS ILUMA (version 4, induction heating without a blade) launch and US nationwide expansion. Read more about IQOS USA: Product Portfolio

Although it has been speculated that PMI selected Austin, Texas for the first city launch, PMI has not disclosed yet the metropolitan area in which it will launch IQOS.

Is HEETS available in the USA?

Not yet! PMI will introduce HEETS, the tobacco sticks to be used with IQOS3, in one metropolitan area in the USA in July 2024 – at the same time as IQOS 3 launch. However, neither IQOS3 nor HEETS will be widespread available in the USA. IQOS 3 will be replaced by IQOS ILUMA and HEETS will be replaced by TEREA when the US FDA authorizes these products. Read more about IQOS USA: Product Portfolio

Where to buy IQOS in the USA? Where to buy HEETS in the USA?

IQOS is likely to be available IQOS mobile stores (generally located in convenience store parking lots) and IQOS pop-up stores (“IQOS Corners”, located inside the c-stores) in the launch area. PMI may also set up a exclusive flagship store (in a prominent shopping mall) and an area-code restricted website (such as www.getiqos.com). HEETS will be available in most convenience stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. Read more about IQOS USA: History

Is the IQOS USA device an older version of IQOS?

Yes. The IQOS device to be launched in the USA is called IQOS 3 (also called IQOS ORIGINALS in the international markets).

IQOS 3 was first launched on November 15, 2018 in Japan, Switzerland, UK, Russia and Colombia and is sequentially rolled-out across the global markets. The latest version of IQOS device is called IQOS ILUMA.

IQOS ILUMA was first launched in Japan (the world’s largest heated tobacco market) on August 17, 2021 and is later rolled-out to 50 markets. IQOS ILUMA is unlikely to arrive at the USA before 2026 due to the requirement to receive pre-marketing authorization from the US FDA.

IQOS 3 (ORIGINALS) only functions with HEETS tobacco sticks while the IQOS ILUMA only functions with TEREA tobacco sticks. This is due to the different heating technology (induction versus internal pin) and, consequently, different tobacco stick structure: TEREA tobacco sticks contain a stainless steel coated heating element inside which enables induction (seamless) heating. This heating element replaces the heat blade (pin) in the IQOS 3 device.

How many HEETS are equal one cigarette? Is one HEETS equal to one cigarette?

The simple answer is one HEETS is equal to one cigarette. According to IQOS-owner PMI, HEETS sticks are designed for the same duration and number of puffs as cigarettes: that is to say, up to 14 puffs or about 6 minutes, whichever comes first. However, the sensorial experience of HEETS sticks is different from that of cigarettes because tobacco is heated rather than burnt. The density, flavor and aroma of the HEETS aerosol is unquestionably different than the regular cigarette smoke – even if PMI claims that HEETS sticks are made from a specially selected blend of tobacco in order to provide tobacco taste and satisfaction that replicates as much as possible what adult smokers expect and by heating the tobacco (rather than burning it), the true taste of the tobacco is released.

How many HEETS per day?

IQOS-owner PMI claims that HEETS provide a similar ritual and cigarette-like satisfaction when used with IQOS. The UK site of IQOS states that if a smoker previously smokes 10 cigarettes per day, 10 HEETS sticks per day used with IQOS could be considered a comparable amount. Our expert opinion tells otherwise. Even if the nicotine delivery of IQOS is similar to the cigarette smoking, the aerosol is weak by design – which leads to a deficiency in terms of satiation (i.e. reaching to the point where you feel “full” and you don’t need to consume more). Accordingly, we believe the IQOS users consumer more sticks to overcompensate. When switching from cigarettes to IQOS, we believe smokers are likely to observe at least 20% increase in their stick consumption – especially so, in the early days of switching.

What does IQOS mean?

It does not mean anything. It certainly does not mean “I Quit Ordinary Smoking” as such a phrase would imply that IQOS is non-ordinary smoking. IQOS owner, PMI, aims to position IQOS as a smoke-free product; thereby, any reference to smoking, ordinary or non-ordinary, would be detrimental to the Company’s efforts to disassociate IQOS from the act of smoking.

To our understanding, IQOS is nothing more than a wordplay around Apple’s i product line and iOS operating system in attempt to free ride on the popularity of the Apple product nomenclature while implying that IQOS is an Intelligent product powered by a high Quality Operating System.

In which countries IQOS is available?

IQOS is currently available in 70 countries. Here is the list of countries where IQOS is available:

Albania, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curacao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Cyprus, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan

Which country smokes the most IQOS?

Japan. Philip Morris International (PMI) started the pilot marketing of IQOS in Nagoya, Japan on November 2, 2014. This was the first-ever commercial launch of a new generation heated tobacco device. The older generations were test marketed in the US, Japan and Switzerland in the previous two decades, starting from mid-1990s and leading up to the Nagoya launch in 2014. PMI initiated the nationwide expansion of IQOS in Japan in September 2015. Heated tobacco category became widely popular in Japan since then, capturing 42% of the total nicotine market share in the first quarter of 2024. In Tokyo, Japan (a leading sub-market) heated tobacco category has already overtaken the conventional cigarettes in terms of market share.

In 2023, PMI shipped 43 billion heated tobacco sticks (2.15 billion packs) to the Japanese market – corresponding tot 34% of PMI’s total global heated tobacco shipments. Russia and Italy follow Japan with 16.9 billion and 12.4 billion sticks, respectively, as the second and third largest IQOS markets.

PMI’s IQOS holds ~70% share in the Japanese heated tobacco market: the rest of the market is shared between British American Tobacco’s glo (18%) and Japan Tobacco’s Ploom (12%, including the hybrid platforms). With an estimated size of ~60 billion sticks (~3 billion packs) and ~US$12 billion retail turnover (including the devices), Japanese heated tobacco market is by far the largest in the world.

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