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Heat-not-burn tobacco products include electric devices that heat modified cigarettes to produce an aerosol for inhalation without causing combustion.1–3 In line with recent tobacco industry effort to diversify their product portfolio,4 various new heat-not-burn devices have been introduced since 2014 in selected markets such as the UK, Italy and Japan—including Philip Morris International (PMI)’s IQOS i.1 5 Industry analysts predict that heat-not-burn products will absorb 30% of the US regular cigarette market by 2025.2
This manuscript describes PMI’s marketing of IQOS in South Korea based on news monitoring and direct observation by the author during two visits to the flagship stores in Seoul (June 2017) and the purchase of an IQOS device from one store. While currently available in selected markets only, the tobacco industry is expanding the reach of heat-not-burn tobacco products: PMI submitted a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) application to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 20166 and is planning to offer IQOS in 30+ countries within 2017.3 PMI started selling IQOS and the packs of modified cigarettes (called HEETS ii) in two flagship stores in Seoul, Korea on 27 May 2017. On 5 June 2017, other retail outlets in Seoul including CU (Korea’s largest convenience store chain7) and Electromart (an electronics specialty francise8) started selling them. The device costs 120 000 Korean Won (KRW; approximately US$105); a pack of 20 HEETS are priced at 4300 KRW, similar to regular cigarettes (4500 KRW/pack). As the manufacturer’s warranty for IQOS in Korea covers up to 7300 HEETS (based on the number of recharges to the battery), assuming this …
↵i In the MRTP application to the FDA, PMI uses the lower-case ‘iQOS’ as the formal product name. In Korea, PMI uses ‘아이코스” (reads i-co-s) in Korean and ‘IQOS’ in English.
↵ii In Japan, IQOS tobacco sticks are marketed as ‘HeatSticks’. PMI also uses ‘Marlboro HeatSticks’ as formal product name in its FDA MRTP application. In Europe and Korea, the tobacco sticks are marketed as ‘HEETS’.
Funding The author wish to acknowledge the funding support of the Food and Drug Administration/National Cancer Institute (P50CA180890).
Disclaimer This content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.