“Heat-not-burn” cigarette alternative faces scrutiny in the U.S.

A device that heats tobacco without burning it reduces some of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes, but government scientists say it’s unclear if that translates into lower rates of disease for smokers who switch.

U.S. regulators published a mixed review Monday of the closely watched cigarette alternative from Philip Morris International. The company hopes to market the electronic device as the first “reduced-risk” tobacco product ever sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Philip Morris’ penlike device, called iQOS, is already sold in more than 30 countries, including Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. But Philip Morris and its U.S. partner, Altria, need the permission of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to sell it in the U.S.

iQOS heats strips of Marlboro-branded tobacco but stops short of burning them, producing a tobacco vapor that includes nicotine. This is different from e-cigarettes, which don’t use tobacco at all but instead vaporize liquid usually containing nicotine. Nicotine is what makes cigarettes addictive.

Philip Morris believes its product is closer to the taste and experience of traditional cigarettes, making it more attractive to smokers and reducing their contact with tar and other toxic byproducts of burning cigarettes.

Company scientists will present their studies and marketing plan to a panel of FDA advisers this week. The panel’s recommendation, expected Thursday, is non-binding: the FDA will make the ultimate decision on the device later this year.

Read more here.

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