With IQOS now the UK’s number one product in the smoke-free category [1], Philip Morris Limited’s head of field force UK and Ireland, Kate O’Dowd, reflects on how it has accelerated the overall growth of the heated tobacco category, and thanks the growing retailer community for the part it continues to play in building a smoke-free future.


For some time now, IQOS has been the world’s number one heated tobacco product [2] with more than 16 million users in over 60 countries [3]. Where IQOS has launched, impact has followed with 72% of adult smokers who try IQOS abandoning cigarettes and switching completely to IQOS [4], which emits on average 95% less harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes [5]. 

In Japan, for instance, there are now six million IQOS users [6], with heated tobacco products (HTP) making up about a third of all tobacco sales [7]. This phenomenal rise is matched against a 32% drop in cigarette sales since the introduction of HTPs in 2014 [8]. 

IQOS launched in the UK in 2016. As the first heated tobacco product on the market, we worked tirelessly to establish the category through our channels – increasing the understanding of this sophisticated technology to adult smokers who were seeking a cigarette-like alternative [9] that no other smoke-free alternative was able to deliver. We knew it would take time, but with an unparalleled success rate in helping smokers make the switch from cigarettes, UK customers began to see the benefit. 

We ramped up the support we offered our customers through IQOS Care - a comprehensive and increasingly personalised support service. IQOS Care Experts are available seven days a week, with lockdown restrictions not preventing the delivery of remote services through live chat, email and over-the-phone. When restrictions ease on international travel, UK customers can also access IQOS Care support in over 60 countries. This commitment to our customers has led to IQOS Care receiving a Trustpilot rating of 4.4, with more than 1,300 reviews and 77% of customers rating the service as ‘Excellent’ [10]. 

St John’s Budgens - an IQOS success story

Sid Sidhu

Sid Sidhu, St John’s Budgens, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Sid Sidhu at St John’s Budgens in Warwickshire is one of the UK’s leading IQOS and HEETS stockists: “We’ve had an extremely strong couple of months of sales on IQOS and HEETS, including new customers that we’ve converted over since the menthol cigarette ban. We stock seven varieties of HEETS at the RRP of £5 and this is a bonus for us. Shoppers perceive this as good value for money and tend to buy as they would traditional tobacco, one pack at a time. This means we have more footfall into store and generally more basket spend - approximately 60% will go on to buy something else.”

While we served the needs of our customers, retailers nationwide were increasing access to heated tobacco by becoming HEETS and IQOS stockists. Asda, BP, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Shell, Tesco, Waitrose and WH Smith High Street, have joined thousands of independent convenience stores in stocking a range of HEETS. The IQOS device can also be purchased at select Sainsbury’s stores and Sainsbury’s online, and from May this year, the opportunity to stock IQOS was extended to thousands of independent retailers. 

By working in partnership with our growing retailer community, we have been able to meet customer demand in the heated tobacco category throughout the country. This has resulted in the retail value share of IQOS and HEETS surpassing that for the products of PML’s nearest competitor in the smoke-free category [11]. Importantly for me, however, has been the combined effort to offer adult smokers a better choice – one that could see them quit cigarettes for good. And with our field force expanding, we’ll be able to reach more adult smokers in new regions and cities in 2021. 

So, here’s to you – our retail partners. I know it’s been a difficult year but you have made a difference to the lives of thousands of adult smokers. We promise to continue increasing the availability of our products and delivering unrivalled customer support, so that many more benefit.



[1] Nielsen data as of September 2020, which encapsulates “smoke-free” product categories - e-cigarettes (hardware and consumables) and IQOS (Device and HEETS) specifically - in multiple grocers and General Trade in retail. IQOS and HEETS surpassed the products of PML’s nearest competitor in June, 2020.

[2] PMI global estimate of total in-market sales of heated tobacco units, as of December 2019 (excluding China and U.S.).

[3] PMI Third-Quarter Earnings, as of September 30, 2020.

[4] PMI Third-Quarter Earnings: ‘Over 16 million IQOS users’, as of September 30, 2020.

[5] Average reductions in levels of a range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette (3R4F). Important information: it does not necessarily equal a 95% reduction in risk. IQOS is not risk-free.

[6] PMI, Third-Quarter Earnings: ‘grew to an estimate total of 6.0 million’, as of October 20, 2020.

[7] Burning Issues: Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2020. London: Knowledge-Action-Change, 2020.

[8] Ibid

[9] Studies showed that the satisfaction of those who switched completely to IQOS is comparable to those who continued to smoke cigarettes. 3 month clinical studies conducted in US and Japan with 160 adult smokers each under real conditions (ambulatory)

[10] Trustpilot, IQOS UK (as of Tuesday 10th November, 2020) - https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/uk.iqos.com

[11] Nielsen data as of September 2020, which encapsulates “smoke-free” product categories - e-cigarettes (hardware and consumables) and IQOS (Device and HEETS) specifically - in multiple grocers and General Trade in retail. IQOS and HEETS surpassed the products of PML’s nearest competitor in June, 2020.