Philip Morris International is doubling down on their claims that their heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco product IQOS is the game-changing reduced-risk nicotine product. And they’re paying users to convert their smoking friends.
Peter Nixon, PMI’s managing director for the U.K. and Ireland, says that since the HNB product’s British launch last December, 70 percent of users have been able to quit smoking completely. According to Reuters, the big tobacco exec told BBC Radio that the 70 percent figure compares to only 15-20 percent of vapers quitting cigarettes.
“It’s unprecedented,” Nixon told the BBC’s Today program. “We’re very encouraged that products like IQOS are the absolute game changer.”
If true, the success rate of IQOS for cessation would be ten times the rate shown by nicotine replacement therapies in clinical trials. But PMI isn’t doing a clinical trial in the U.K., and Nixon didn’t tell the BBC exactly how the company is measuring its success. IQOS has only been on the market for six months.
Convert a smoker, make some bucks
In the U.K., where PMI’s distribution strength isn’t as great as that of rival companies, the big tobacco giant is turning users to salespeople, offering £50 (about $65) for each “converted” smoker. They call them “freelancers.”
“A freelancer is someone who helps people to give up, because for people who have been smoking for many many years, to change that habit is not easy,” Nixon told the BBC. “Freelancers take them through a seven day program, like a coach. Each day the freelancer helps them through this change.”
It sounds like a combination of Amway and a quit-smoking clinic. And it seems like a farfetched way to make a real dent in the smoking market. It’s also the kind of thing vapers do every day, and have been for a long time.
IQOS in the U.S.: coming soon?
PMI and its American affiliate Altria have filed a premarket tobacco application (PMTA) and a modified risk tobacco product application (MRTP) with the FDA, asking the agency to approve IQOS for sale in the U.S.
Modified risk is a designation no tobacco product has ever been granted. If approved as a modified-risk product, Philip Morris will be allowed to make relative risk claims about IQOS that no vapor product can, despite the widely held belief that e-cigarettes pose little or no health risk.
All of the countries IQOS has been test marketed in have had restrictive policies on e-cigarette sales. Most notably, Japan — where PMI claims its greatest market success with the HNB product — prohibits nicotine-containing vapes completely.