When Big Tobacco’s Phillip Morris filed an application per the FDA deeming regulations to market its IQOS heat-not-burn electronic cigarette in the United States, the reaction within the vaping industry was swift and decidedly mixed. While the device has the appearance of a state-of-the-art vape mod, the technology hidden inside is anything but.
Unlike today’s vaping equipment, the IQOS uses real tobacco.
Numerous research studies conducted both here and abroad consistently show that smoking rates around the world are plummeting as the rise in popularity of vaping continues to soar. At first glance, Phillip Morris appears to be simply jumping aboard the e-cig bandwagon, trying to change with the times by providing the smoking public with a healthier alternative.
But a deeper look into the IQOS product reveals some very concerning details. For example, Phillip Morris is marketing the device as technology that heats tobacco rather than burns it. They are promoting the product as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, and they even have the company-funded research studies to prove it.
Is Phillip Morris trying to trick the vaping community?
Unfortunately, these “studies” are somewhat questionable, at best. Phillip Morris says that the IQOS product heats tobacco leaves to only 350 degrees, resulting in substantially less exposure to the thousands of toxins commonly found in conventional cigarettes.
The company is also borrowing a line from the vaping industry playbook, specifically the one made famous by the Royal College of Physicians stating that e-cigs are 95 percent safer and healthier than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Presumably, the FDA will not grant approval of Phillip Morris’ application unless the research truly backs up these claims. The New York Times reports:
“The first study, conducted in 2013 in Poland, showed that levels of some of the most toxic contaminants in tobacco smoke were substantially lower in users of the iQOS heat-not-burn device than in smokers, though they were somewhat higher than in those who abstained. That study, however, lasted only five days. Scientists have not yet published results from a second study, which involved 160 people and lasted three months, company officials said. A third study, which is expected to last six to 12 months, has yet to begin, they said.”
This is only Phillip Morris’s latest attempt to change the game for Big Tobacco. In the 1980’s when then-President Bill Clinton implemented the first massive tax hike on tobacco cigarettes, Phillip Morris launched a similar product called Premier. But it wasn’t well-received and disappeared from the marketplace after only a few years.
The FDA deeming regulations and ‘tobacco products’
The IQOS might also face a similar fate of the 1980s Premier. But Big Tobacco companies like Phillip Morris already has a few more tricks up its sleeve.
They have several additional vape-like products ready to launch in the coming year – if the IQOS system fails miserably. Competitor British American Tobacco is releasing their latest smoking alternative called the Pebble, and the Vype Raptor and Glo are next in line for release. And each of these devices have a strikingly similar look and feel of conventional vaping technology.
When the FDA deeming regulations were first announced last May, the vaping industry felt immediately insulted that their products were being lumped into the same category as conventional cigarettes. Rebellious vaping companies like Nicopure Labs immediately filed lawsuits in an attempt to have the new regulations overturned.
The basis of the argument has always been that e-cigs are not tobacco products and should therefore be exempt from the same types of government oversight typically reserved for Big Tobacco. These lawsuits are still making their way through the court system.
FDA Deeming regulations: Confusing the issue
When Phillip Morris launches a new product that looks like a vape mod but still requires the use of tobacco, doesn’t this already muddy the waters of the FDA deeming regulations even further?
If the nation’s government officials are not smart enough (or willing enough) to understand that e-cigs are 100 percent tobacco-free and cannot legally be classified as “tobacco products,” then how can the vaping industry really expect them to learn the differences between a vape mod and an IQOS cigarette? And what about the American, non-smoking, non-vaping public who already detest any contraption that produces a thick plum of white gaseous substance, be it smoke, vapor, or “heated tobacco?”
It’s enough to make the head spin, and even more than enough reason for the U.S. government to streamline the entire regulatory process by lumping all related products into a single category – Big Tobacco.
(Related Article: FDA EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR DEEMING REGULATIONS AMID RUMORS OF A TRUMP REVERSAL)
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