A major vaping advocacy group in the U.S. is urging federal heath regulators to back a new technology it argues can help create “a ‘smoke-free’ future.”
The American Vaping Association (AVA) sent a letter Friday to Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, asking the agency to approve an application from Philip Morris International (PMI) regarding the sale of the company’s heat-not-burn product, the IQOS, in the U.S.
Unlike a traditional e-cigarette, which vaporizes nicotine fluid, the IQOS heats tobacco leaves. Tobacco sticks branded HEETS, which resemble small cigarettes, are inserted into the heating device for use.
PMI’s Modified Risk Tobacco Product application (MRTP), currently under FDA review, will determine whether the IQOS can be legally marketed as a safer alternative to smoking.
Gregory Conley, president of the AVA, argues if health officials in the U.S. are serious about reducing smoking rates, they need to allow companies to provide accurate information to consumers about the reduced health risks of their products.
“As strong believers in the possibility of the United States attaining a ‘smoke-free’ future with technology, innovation, and a recognition of informed human choice, we strongly recommended that the FDA approve these MRTP applications,” Conley says in the letter. “In its submission, PMI has argued extensively and convincingly that a smoker who switches to iQOS will be exposed to dramatically lower concentrations of the chemicals responsible for the bulk of death and disease caused by smoking.”
The IQOS debuted in Japan last year and is proving a smash hit in the country. Sales are outperforming PMI’s expectations, accounting for 7.1 percent of Japan’s overall tobacco sales as of the first quarter of 2017. At this rate, PMI CEO Andre Calantzopoulos estimates traditional cigarettes could be on the chopping block in Japan within a few years.
PMI announced Aug. 24 approximately 3 million smokers in Singapore have transitioned from cigarettes to the IQOS. The company says more than 232,000 smokers across the world, or roughly 8,000 people a day, ditched cigarettes for the IQOS in July.
Evidence suggests that because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke, e-cigarettes eliminate up to 95 percent of the risk. Recent research evaluating the impact of heat-not-burn devices on overall health are bolstering their image as a harm reduction product that can help move smokers away from traditional cigarettes.
The FDA began reviewing PMI’s product application for the IQOS in January. The company submitted the MRTP application to the FDA March 25.
There is no deadline for the review, and PMI expects it could take up to a year.
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