IQOS marketing strategies and expenditures in the United States from market entrance in 2019 to withdrawal in 2021

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco




INTRODUCTION: IQOS entered the US market in October 2019, then received the Food and Drug Administration's modified risk tobacco product authorization (MRTPA) allowing use of "reduced exposure" claims in marketing in July 2020. A May 2021 court decision regarding patent infringement required IQOS' removal from the US market in November 2021. METHODS: Using 2019-2021 Numerator marketing data, this study characterized ad occurrences and expenditures - including allocation per ad content (headline theme, imagery) and media type and channel - pre- and post-MRTPA; exploratory analyses characterized the post-court to withdrawal period separately. RESULTS: The study period entailed 685 occurrences and $15,451,870 in expenditures. The proportions of occurrences across the 3 periods (pre-MRTPA, post-MRTPA, post-court) were 39.3%, 48.8%, and 12.0%, respectively (p<.001); the proportions of expenditures were 8.6%, 30.0%, and 61.5%. Overall, 73.1% of ad occurrences were via online display; 99.6% of expenditures occurred in print. Per occurrences, prominent pre-MRTPA headline themes included "future" (40.2%), "real tobacco" (38.7%), "get IQOS" (35.3%), and "innovation/technology" (20.1%); post-MRTPA, prominent themes included "not burned/heat control" (32.7%), "reduced exposure" (26.4%), and "distinct from e-cigarettes" (20.7%). Visuals/images mainly depicted the product alone (pre-MRTPA: 86.6%; post-MRTPA: 76.1%), but increasingly featured women (pre-MRTPA: 8.6%; post-MRTPA: 21.5%). The most prominent media channel theme pre-MRTPA was "technology" (19.7%), but post-MRTPA included "fashion/women" (20.4%) and "entertainment/pop culture/gaming" (19.0%). CONCLUSIONS: IQOS leveraged MRTPA in ads, continued marketing post court decision, and targeted key consumer groups (i.e., women). Marketing surveillance of products granted MRTPA is needed, domestically and in other countries, to assess its use and impact. IMPLICATIONS: Philip Morris (PM) leveraged IQOS' modified risk tobacco product authorization (MRTPA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and continued marketing IQOS after its withdrawal from the US market due to a patent infringement related court decision. Notably, IQOS marketing increasingly targeted key consumer groups (e.g., women). Given IQOS' potential return to the US, PM's use of FDA's MRTPA to promote IQOS as a risk reduction product in other countries, and FDA's MRTPA for other products, it is crucial to monitor products receiving MRTPA, their marketing, and their population impact, domestically and in other countries.


Prevention and Community Health