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Examining perceptions about IQOS heated tobacco product: consumer studies in Japan and Switzerland
  1. Elizabeth C Hair1,2,
  2. Morgane Bennett1,3,
  3. Emily Sheen4,
  4. Jennifer Cantrell2,5,
  5. Jodie Briggs1,
  6. Zoe Fenn4,
  7. Jeffrey G Willett1,
  8. Donna Vallone1,2,5
  1. 1 Schroeder Institute, Truth Initiative, Washington, DC, USA
  2. 2 Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
  3. 3 Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA
  4. 4 Flamingo, London, UK
  5. 5 College of Global Public Health, New York University, New York, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Elizabeth C Hair, Schroeder Initiative, Truth Initiative, Washington, DC, USA; ehair{at}


Objective To examine consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviours regarding the heated tobacco product, IQOS, as well as to document the product’s marketing strategies to determine its potential for appealing to youth and young adults.

Method Truth Initiative, in collaboration with Flamingo, collected qualitative data via: (1) expert interviews, (2) semiotic analysis of IQOS packing and marketing materials, and (3) 12 focus groups with adults in Switzerland (ages 19–44 years; June 6–9, 2016) and Japan (ages 20–39 years; June 22–24, 2016) (n=68 for both groups).

Results Expert interviews and IQOS packing and marketing analyses revealed the product is being marketed as a clean, chic and pure product, which resonated very well in Japan given the strong cultural values of order, cleanliness, quality and respect for others. Focus groups results indicated Japanese IQOS users used the product for socialising with non-smokers. Focus group participants in both Japan and Switzerland reported lower levels of satisfaction with the product relative to combustible cigarettes, although many found the product packaging to be appealing. While participants identified several benefits and barriers related to IQOS, few reported any potential health benefits of use compared with combustible tobacco products.

Conclusion IQOS was marketed as a sophisticated, high tech and aspirational product. Because youth and young adults are more interested in such product positioning, this approach raises some concern about youth appeal. This research shows cultural factors appeared to affect the appeal of this messaging, indicating that prevalence and uptake data will likely not be similar from country to country.

  • advertising and promotion
  • non-cigarette tobacco products
  • packaging and labelling
  • tobacco industry

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  • Contributors ECH, JC, JGW and DV designed the study. ES and ZF performed the data collection. MB and JB wrote the paper. All authors contributed to the revising of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.