IQOS USA: Launch Tracker

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In this article, we track the developments around the IQOS Launch in the USA and answer the most frequently asked questions.

April 2024

Reuters reported that Philip Morris International (PMI) is preparing to launch IQOS in Austin, Texas based on the analysis of the LinkedIn job adverts1.

Austin, Texas would not be our first choice for a progressive launch. We would have picked Charlotte, North Carolina or any other major city in the Virginia – North/South Carolina – Georgia Region.

The selection of the optimal first launch (“nesting”) territory for IQOS depends on a list of factors, such as: favorable regulatory climate, favorable tax scheme for heated tobacco, favorable societal perception, family & friends impact, pre-existing IQOS awareness, low tar-nicotine and (especially) menthol use incidence, ability to expand into densely populated areas and consumer profile (openness to innovation & technology, purchasing power, socioeconomic factors, etc.). Virginia – Carolina – Georgia (VCG) Region ticks many of these boxes better than Texas. Actually, there were a good deal of reasons why Altria [the company that knows the US market the best] selected the VCG Region as the first launch territory for the 2019-21 introduction and delivered the launch milestones that eventually costed PMI $2.7Bn in compensatory fees. For further details: IQOS USA: History.

PMI picks the “Lone Star State” – far away from every densely populated area except its own – to start its quest to conquer the 50-State country. This seems like a choice of “isolation” – rather than a choice of “incubation”. If Austin (an isolated, top-tier city) is confirmed, our read would be that PMI does’t want the US public & consumer to be overly exposed to the inferior IQOS 3 device while awaiting the authorization of its “latest & greatest” heated tobacco device: IQOS ILUMA.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is IQOS available in the US?

Not yet! Philip Morris International (PMI) will launch IQOS (version 3, internal heating with a blade) in one metropolitan area in the USA in May 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

PMI has not yet disclosed 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 May 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.

References:

  1. https://www.reuters.com/markets/us/philip-morris-nears-texas-launch-flagship-heated-tobacco-device-2024-03-28/ ↩︎

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