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IQOS UK Rollback

Philip Morris International has now closed almost all of its flagship IQOS stores in the UK as the heated tobacco market failed to replicate vaping’s success

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Philip Morris International (PMI) has now closed almost all of its flagship IQOS stores in the United Kingdom as its heated tobacco product failed to replicate the success experienced by vape products over the last decade. The move comes as researchers publish a paper saying IQOS “may be less effective than Juul for smoking cessation”.

PMI opened up a number of glamourous flagship IQOS stores across the UK. Reminiscent of Apple stores, the locations were at the vanguard of ambitious plans to roll out hundreds of stores to promote the heated tobacco product lines.

But, from the initial 16 ventures opened up from 2019, just a handful remain as PMI backtracked on its intention to broaden its presence on the high street. Despite making serious inroads into the tobacco market in some countries, UK smokers and vapers have remained decidedly lukewarm about the heated tobacco proposition.

One PMI insider told reporters at The Times: “[At] the end of last year, the company decided to quietly close them, having spent millions on a failed retail strategy. This obviously raises questions about the commercial success of IQOS in the UK and if there is a demand for the product in this country. PMI will argue that they no longer need the stores in the UK, online sales are growing, and they are now in the major supermarkets in the UK, but it’s still a big U-turn to close your retail footprint in the UK after just 18 months of operation.”

The newspaper reports that around 60 staff have been made redundant.

The news follows PMI saying that it could foresee the day when it will stop selling cigarettes, putting a ten-year deadline on this happening, with its chief executive calling for the UK government to enact strong regulation to bring this about.

Action on Smoking and Health responded to this by calling for further taxation to be placed on the tobacco industry to fund smoking cessation and education programmes.

Meanwhile, a team led by Professor Peter Hajek have published a paper titled “Nicotine delivery and user ratings of IQOS heated tobacco system compared to cigarettes, Juul and refillable e-cigarettes”.

The team believes that alternative, reduced harm nicotine products will only gain traction with smokers if they manage to deliver comparable doses of nicotine when being used as a substitute for smoking products.

They looked at the experience of current vapers who smoke less than one cigarette per day. The investigation compared an IQOS device with Juul products and refillable e-cigarette containing 20 mg/ml nicotine.

The team found that the Juul was best at delivering nicotine. The regular vapers rated Juul as better than the heated tobacco product. Although the refillable products delivered less nicotine, the study group rated these the highest.

They concluded: “Because IQOS provided less efficient nicotine delivery than cigarettes and Juul in this sample, and also had a weaker effect on urges to smoke than Juul, it could be less helpful than Juul in assisting such dual users, and possibly smokers generally, to switch to an alternative product.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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