The science and the research behind IQOS.
PMI's scientific assessment journey.
PMI has developed a comprehensive step-by-step scientific assessment programme. This programme is inspired by the practices of the pharmaceutical industry and is in line with the USA’s Federal Drug Administration’s 2012 guidance on the assessment of candidate Modified Risk Tobacco products. PMI's assessment is also conducted according to international standards.
In laboratory settings, PMI found that IQOS tobacco vapour is less toxic than cigarette smoke. Scientists test PMI's products thoroughly before they go into adult smokers’ hands. Using in vitro assays in our labs, PMI assessed the cytotoxicity and genotoxicity of IQOS tobacco vapour in comparison with the smoke of a reference cigarette designed for research purposes. Taken together, the results of these assays show that IQOS tobacco vapour is significantly less toxic than the smoke from reference cigarette.
This is just a glimpse of the work carried out by PMI. These tests were crucial before PMI moved on to test IQOS with thousands of adult smokers who voluntarily participated in PMI's clinical study programme and ultimately allowed the commercialization of IQOS products.
Do the significantly lower number and levels of harmful chemicals in IQOS tobacco vapour also mean lower levels of such chemicals in the body? If you reduce the level of harmful chemicals in IQOS tobacco vapour, it would make sense that switching completely to IQOS from cigarettes reduces exposure to these harmful chemicals. To prove this, PMI measured biomarkers of exposure for a number of these harmful chemicals in thousands of smokers who participated in their clinical study programme (some switched to IQOS, while others either continued smoking their cigarette brand or quit for the duration of the study).
These studies show that when smokers switch to IQOS, their body absorbs significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals, which in turn results in favourable changes in a number of risk markers selected because of their known association with smoking-related diseases. But it doesn’t end there.
The clinical study participants who switched to IQOS also report that IQOS provides comparable levels of satisfaction as cigarettes. This supports PMI's view that IQOS has the potential to be an acceptable alternative for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke.
However, and this is important: IQOS is not risk-free. The absolute best choice remains to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether. IQOS is not an alternative to cessation. It delivers nicotine, which is addictive.
* Based on clinical studies, aerosol chemistry and declaration of satisfaction level from 600 adult consumers in Japan, 2022.
Once IQOS is available in the market, the research moves from being conducted in a pre-market setting to a real-world post-market setting. There, PMI looks at how the product is being used and by whom in order to complement our pre-market findings and to do our best to identify and prevent use or uptake by unintended audiences. After years of commercialization in many countries, the available data confirms the pre-market observations, in particular in terms of IQOS’ relevance to adult smokers and the relative lack of interest in former and never smokers.
PMI also monitors reports of health effects now that the product is used by millions of adult users. Long-term studies will eventually help to evaluate the potential disease–specific risk reduction of IQOS. Gathering data to answer this question takes time, but it’s the right choice. So far, all the data seen by PMI points in the right direction.
IQOS is a better choice than continued smoking. The totality of scientific evidence available to-date clearly demonstrates it.
IQOS is not risk-free and delivers nicotine, which is addictive. The best decision any smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether.