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New Zealand Suing Philip Morris Over IQOS Devices

New Zealand Suing Philip Morris Over IQOS Devices


New Zealand Suing Philip Morris Over IQOS Devices

Living here in the States, you might not have heard of the I-Quit-Ordinary-Smoking (iQOS) systems, but they have been rolling out overseas since 2014 with the backing of Big Tobacco giant Philip Morris, who's also behind the Marlboro brand. The reason for the lack of advertisement in the here is because the products have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and have been embroiled in lawsuits with investors over safety concerns.

But the United States is not the only country that’s seen lawsuits filed against Philip Morris over whether or not iQOS devices meet safety requirements. New Zealand’s Health Ministry filed suit against the tobacco giant due to concerns with their "Heets" and "HeatSticks." The suit focuses on classification, because it’s unclear as to whether or not they fall under the category of a smokable tobacco product.  

The irony of the lawsuit is that the Health Department has to prove that the Heet devices are for oral use, which would make it safer but also illegal, and Philip Morris is arguing that it’s a smoking product. The two charges the company faces carry a maximum penalty of $10,000, a relatively small amount for a large international corporation like PMI.

“It’s the heat sticks that contain tobacco, and there’s no problem that this product contains tobacco,” said Health ministry prosecutor Sally Carter whilst addressing the Wellington District Court. She pointed out that the issue came down to legal fine print. “The real problem is whether this product falls within the Smokefree [Environments] Act 1990."

iQOS Systems

Smokeless tobacco systems have one main point that puts them in between being a cigarette and a vape: that their systems operate at temperatures lower than burning tobacco, and therefore do not lead to the combustion of fire, ash, and smoke. Traditional cigarettes burn tobacco at 600 degree celsius (1112 degrees fahrenheit) whereas these new smokeless cigarettes burn at 350 degrees celsius (662 degrees fahrenheit).

According to the Big Tobacco companies like Philip Morris, this lower temperature cuts down on a lot of the dangers that comes with combustible cigarettes, and it has been successfully marketed in over thirty countries. The company claims that over 4.7 million people use smokeless tobacco products worldwide.

Philip Morris filed for FDA approval of the IQOS system in August 2017, although that approval is still pending. In the United States the lawsuit alleges that there are “irregularities in the clinical experiments that underpin Philip Morris’ application to the FDA for approval of its iQOS smoking device” and that they were misleading investors on the probability of it being approved.

As for the lawsuit in New Zealand, it’s worth mentioning that the country is often thought of as a flagship country for progressive vape policies. They have pushed for initiatives that look to a smoke-free country by 2025, and have pushed for vape devices as cessation tools. We’ll keep an eye on both lawsuits and any other iQOS developments going forward.