Timing of Iqos tobacco device launch in US couldn’t be better

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Iqos isn’t a vaping device or a cigarette. It heats tobacco, but doesn’t burn it, and is designed to give users the same rush of nicotine as smoking with fewer toxins. It comes amid public panic over an outbreak of a deadly lung disease that’s killed at least 18 people. US health officials have traced the illnesses to vaping.

“It’s perfect timing,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Lavery. “I don’t think they would have expected some consumer uncertainty around vapour coinciding with the launch of Iqos in the US.”

Iqos was formally launched in Atlanta this month. Altria opened an airy new Iqos store with tall glass windows and light wood in a corner of Lenox Square mall, CNBC reports.

The Food and Drug Administration authorised its sale in the US in April, setting strict marketing guidelines aimed at ensuring only adult smokers use Iqos, not kids.

Regulators are already battling a surge in teen vaping, coupled with the vaping disease that’s sickened more than 1,000 people in recent months. Although most of the cases involve THC found in marijuana, some users have said they exclusively used nicotine. The epidemic has prompted health officials around the world to start pulling e-cigarettes off shelves.

Altria and Philip Morris International started developing Iqos when the companies were still combined. PMI led the work once it was spun off from Altria in 2008. It launched Iqos in Nagoya, Japan, and Milan in 2014 and has since introduced it in 49 markets, with Atlanta being the latest, according to CNBC. Altria will market Iqos in the US through a licensing agreement with PMI.

In some places, like Japan and Russia, Iqos has taken off. Adoption has been slower in other places, like Canada and the United Kingdom. 

Unlike e-cigarettes, Iqos uses actual tobacco. The device heats the tobacco instead of burning it, avoiding the chemical process that occurs when smoking a cigarette that produces many harmful toxins.

Altria says the experience mimics smoking a cigarette and is therefore attractive to adult smokers. Of the roughly 34 million adult smokers in the US, Altria estimates about 20 million are looking for alternatives, many of whom have tried but did not like vapour products, Altria spokesman David Sutton told CNBC.

The pen-like experience is sleek. Using it, however, can be confusing. To use Iqos, users insert a Marlboro-branded heatstick, which looks like a stubby cigarette, into the device. They then click a button and the device heats the tobacco, producing an aerosol.

Full report on the CNBC site

Altria launches Iqos tobacco device in US, and the timing couldn’t be better

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