ASH reaction to new Philip Morris IQOS ‘heat not burn’ product

30 November 2016.  Tobacco company Philip Morris has today launched IQOS, a potentially ‘reduced risk’ tobacco product in the UK.  The device uses compressed tobacco in a ‘mini-cigarette’ form in a vapouriser.  Unlike electronic cigarettes which vapourise nicotine suspended in a liquid, the IQOS heats and vapourises tobacco.

Globally, smoking killed 100 million people in the 20th century, many more than all deaths in World Wars I and II combined. If current trends continue tobacco-related deaths will number around 1 billion in the 21st century, mainly in low and middle-income countries. [1] In the UK alone, smoking still kills nearly 100,000 people every year. [2]

ASH believes, therefore, in line with the Royal College of Physicians, that in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK. [3] Vapourised tobacco may also be substantially less harmful as the tobacco is not combusted to produce smoke.


  • Particularly because of the tobacco industry’s long record of deceit over the health risks of smoking, there is an urgent need for independent research into the level of harm these products may cause. Philip Morris accepts that IQOS is likely to be as addictive as smoking, so the risks of youth uptake need to be investigated. Furthermore, because the product is expensive, there also needs to be research on the economic and social cost of dependence, and not just on any physical harm. We understand that the UK Government has asked the independent Committee on Toxicity to look at the data; this is welcome but not sufficient. It should be noted that the tobacco industry, including Philip Morris, was found by the Judge in the recent case on standardised packaging to have submitted evidence which fell “significantly below internationally accepted best practice.” [4]
  • Although Philip Morris claims to be working towards a world without smoking, the company is still reliant on conventional tobacco and admits that it will continue to be so for many years to come. [5] In countries with relatively weak legislation, PMI is still using marketing and advertising tactics designed to promote smoking to young people, for example through its “Be Marlboro” campaign. [6]

ASH therefore believes that unless and until independent evidence shows that IQOS and similar products are substantially less harmful than smoking then these products should be regulated in the same way as other tobacco products.

 Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“Philip Morris states that this is potentially a reduced risk product. If smokers switch to electronic cigarettes or other products that can be shown to cut the risks to their health, this could lead to a big improvement in public health. But we need independent evidence to support any claims made by the tobacco industry.

 Philip Morris claims to be moving towards a post smoking future but, like other tobacco companies, it is still actively promoting smoking around the world, using methods that would be illegal in the UK. From past experience nothing the tobacco companies say should be accepted at face value. Fully independent research and assessment will be crucial if IQOS and related products are to be accepted as useful in fighting the smoking epidemic.”


Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:

ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

[1] Globally, tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century, much more than all deaths in World Wars I and II combined. Tobacco-related deaths will number around 1 billion in the 21st century if current smoking patterns continue.  The Tobacco Atlas  American Cancer Society, 2015.

[2] In the UK alone, smoking kills nearly 100,000 people every year.    ASH Fact Sheet – Smoking statistics: illness and death  2015

[3] Royal College of Physicians. Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction. London, RCP, 2016

[4] Justice Green’s summary of the High Court judgement on the tobacco industry’s challenge to the UK’s standardised packaging law. May 2016   See also the full judgment

[5] Analysts have predicted that the launch of IQOS could “increase smoking prevalence” and “rejuvenate sales growth despite some cannibalisation”, ie it could boost overall sales of traditional products despite some losses to the ‘reduced risk’ products.  (Bloomberg. Marlboro Kicks Some Ash. 24 March 2016) In addition, PMI’s chief executive André Calantzopoulos has been quoted in the media as looking to a future without combustibles for PMI. But his presentation  to PMI’s September 2016 investor’s day stated that “we will continue to lead the combustible product category, leveraging the great strengths of our existing business to deliver against our current growth algorithm.”

[6] You’re The Target A report by Tobacco Free Kids and other NGOs showing how a global campaign for Marlboro targeted young people. 2014

Contact:   Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)