The Research behind IQOS Heated Tobacco.

Our scientific assessment journey.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: It does not necessarily equal a 95% reduction in risk. IQOS is not risk-free

*“95% less” represents the average reduction in levels of the 9 chemicals recommended for reduction in cigarette smoke by the World Health Organization, which do not include nicotine. See Important Information here

 A mid azure blue IQOS ILUMA product sits on an architect's desk.

Scientific programme.

We have 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. Our assessment was also conducted according to international standards.

Is IQOS less harmful than cigarettes?

In laboratory settings, we found that the vapour emitted from IQOS is less toxic than cigarette smoke. Our scientists test our products thoroughly before they go into adult smokers’ hands. Using in vitro assays in our labs, we 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 our work. These tests were crucial before we moved on to test IQOS with thousands of adult smokers who voluntarily participated in our clinical study programme and ultimately allowed us to commercialize our products.

A brilliant gold IQOS charger
Illustration of particles from cigarette smoke

Clinical studies.

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, we measured biomarkers of exposure for a number of these harmful chemicals in thousands of smokers who participated in our 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.

An architect takes a mid azure blue ILUMA device from its charger.
A jade green IQOS ILUMA device rests on a map.

IQOS satisfaction.

Our clinical study participants who switched to IQOS also report that IQOS provides comparable levels of satisfaction as cigarettes**. This supports our view that IQOS has the potential to be an acceptable alternative for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. Based on all the scientific evidence, we are confident that switching completely to IQOS is less harmful than continuing to smoke cigarettes.

However, and this is important: IQOS is not risk-free and the reduction in risk also depends upon each individual’s smoking history. 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.

A jade green IQOS ILUMA device and holder.
Man holds an IQOS ILUMA mid azure blue device, with a holder and cup on the table.

Long-term studies.

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, we look 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 our pre-market observations, in particular in terms of IQOS’ appeal to adult smokers and the relative lack of interest in former and never smokers. 

We also monitor reports of health effects now that the product is used by millions of adult users. Long-term studies will eventually help us 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 we’ve seen points in the right direction.

An obsidian black IQOS ILUMA device and holder.
Close up of a brilliant gold IQOS device.
Brilliant gold IQOS 3 DUO holder with HEETS stick on charger on red fabric

The scientific result

IQOS is a better choice than continued smoking. The totality of scientific evidence available to-date clearly demonstrates that switching completely to IQOS presents less risk to your health than continuing to smoke cigarettes.***

Two IQOS devices with  sticks inserved on a table.

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**Based on clinical studies, aerosol chemistry and declaration of satisfaction level from 600 adult consumers in Japan, 2022.

***Source: Based on the totality of evidence available for IQOS in comparison with continuing to smoke, which includes data on aerosol chemistry from 10 clinical studies conducted with thousands of participants in the US, Japan and Poland, and data from 18 non-clinical studies.