Nov. 29 update
After a 60-day review of the ITC decision against IQOS, the Biden administration decided to let the ruling stand.
Today will be the last day imported IQOS products can be sold in the U.S.---at least until a federal court rules on an appeal, which could take a year or more.
Altria has announced that heated tobacco product (HTP) IQOS will be removed from the U.S. market Nov. 29, 2021. The decision follows an order by the federal International Trade Commission in a patent dispute initiated by British American Tobacco (BAT) and its U.S. subsidiary Reynolds American (RAI).
The ITC ordered an end to IQOS imports within 60 days. Altria is appealing the court decision, but that process could take a year or more.
Altria announced the decision on its website: “Due to an order issued in an ongoing patent dispute, we have to remove IQOS® Devices and HeatSticks® from all stores as of November 29 and stop advertising these products online and on social media in the event we do not prevail while the order is under review. We’re working hard on a solution to make these products available again as soon as possible.”
Altria may offer refunds to current IQOS customers, and suggests contacting the company’s customer care department at 1-877-438-4767.
Altria sells the device and its cigarette-like refills, called Heatsticks, in the U.S. under license from manufacturer Philip Morris International (PMI), which itself sells IQOS in many other countries. It has only been available domestically in limited test markets in the southeast, including Atlanta, GA and Richmond, VA.
IQOS received marketing authorization from the FDA in 2019 through the Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA) process, and was later granted approval as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP), allowing PMI to claim lower risk to users than cigarettes.
The ITC decision only applies to IQOS products imported into the U.S. There is currently no domestic production of the HTP device, which might allow Altria to escape the court ruling. IQOS is manufactured only in Europe and Asia by PMI.
Altria and PMI were once a single worldwide company, but PMI was spun off and became a separate entity in 2008. Altria operates exclusively in the U.S., and PMI in the rest of the world. In recent years, the two corporations have discussed re-merging.
PMI announced earlier this week that the global semiconductor shortage would impact IQOS sales globally, possibly into the first half of next year. Its stock dipped slightly on the news.