RICHMOND, Va. — Through recently released photos and narratives, Altria Group has revealed new details about the introduction of its heat-not-burn device, IQOS, in its first two U.S. markets, Atlanta and Richmond, Va.
Altria, which is also based in Richmond, is under an exclusive licensing agreement with Philip Morris International (PMI), New York, to commercialize IQOS and its accompanying compressed-tobacco HeatSticks in the United States. IQOS is a heated tobacco system that allows adult smokers to use tobacco by heating it instead of burning it. Its agreement with PMI means Altria is the first to the U.S. market for a product of this kind, the company said. Altria subsidiary Philip Morris USA (PM USA) is adding IQOS to the Altria companies’ portfolio of products for adult smokers looking for an alternative to cigarettes.
With the launch of IQOS in the Atlanta and Richmond markets, adult smokers now have access to PMI’s heated tobacco product, which is the only next-generation product to receive marketing order authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the United States. The agency gave the authorization in April 2019.
Here are more details …
IQOS is a new product for the more than 20 million adult smokers in the United States who are seeking an alternative to conventional cigarettes, the company said. About half of smokers 21 and older have tried e-vapor products but don’t currently use them, suggesting the e-vapor products on the market aren’t meeting their expectations, Altria officials said. Globally, PMI reported that IQOS is now available in more than 50 countries and that more than 8 million adult smokers around the world have fully switched to IQOS. IQOS is the leading heated tobacco product in every market around the world where it is available, Altria officials said.
To secure market authorization under a premarket tobacco application (PMTA), U.S. federal law obligates an applicant to demonstrate that marketing of a new tobacco product is appropriate for the protection of public health and requires the FDA to consider the risks and benefits to the population as a whole, including users and non-users of tobacco products.
On Dec. 5, 2016, PMI submitted a modified-risk tobacco product (MRTP) application for IQOS to the FDA to allow the marketing of the product with modified risk claims. Scientific review of the MRTP application is ongoing and is independent of the PMTA marketing order authorization.
Marketing approach and store experience
In the U.S. market, Altria will test a range of marketing, sales and consumer engagement approaches to raise adult smokers’ awareness of IQOS attributes, such as less odor, no ash and the presence of real tobacco. The company said its goal is to fully convert U.S. adult smokers who are interested in noncombustible alternatives to IQOS.
At its IQOS-focused retail outlets, employees verify consumers are 21 or older prior to entering and must confirm that they are smokers to receive a guided trial or purchase the product. In IQOS stores, adult smokers are given the opportunity to experience the product firsthand with an IQOS expert who has received in-depth training to walk adult smokers through the product, explain the product features and benefits and encourage the adult smoker to completely switch to IQOS, which is the company’s ultimate goal. Employees will also provide post-purchase support, all while taking steps to minimize reach to unintended audiences, consistent with the FDA marketing order and requirements, the company said.
The FDA has reviewed Altria’s IQOS marketing plans and will monitor them going forward through extensive post-market reporting that PM USA will provide to the FDA as required in the PMTA marketing order.
Altria introduced IQOS in Atlanta last fall. The company describes Atlanta as a dynamic, tech-forward market that gives Altria the opportunity to responsibly and effectively introduce the new IQOS product to adult smokers. Officials described Atlanta as a “good fit” for IQOS because there are at least several hundred thousand adult smokers, many of them Marlboro consumers, which will allow the company to learn how to best introduce adult smokers to IQOS so they can fully switch to the product. To support the introduction of IQOS, PM USA has numerous retail touch points throughout Atlanta, including an IQOS store at Lenox Square and Mall of Georgia; IQOS mobile retail units; and HeatStick availability in approximately 500 retail trade partner stores, including Circle K, Murphy USA, QuikTrip, RaceTrac,Speedway and select others. Many of these chains are high-ranking companies in CSP’s Top 202 list of c-store chains by store count.
Weeks after the Atlanta introduction, Altria began an introductory rollout in its hometown of Richmond. Altria has a sizable employee base in the Richmond area and deep connections with the community that could accelerate early adoption of IQOS, the company said. To support the introduction of IQOS, PM USA has numerous retail touch points throughout Richmond, including an IQOS store in Carytown, Va.; IQOS mobile retail units; and HeatStick availability in approximately 170 retail trade partner stores, including Sheetz, Wawa, 7-Eleven and select others.