>> Tobacco giant Philip Morris is seeking approval from US regulators to sell a new smoking device it says it's less likely to cause disease that traditional cigarettes. But the IQOS device has a potential, less obvious advantage. Reuters has learned it can harvest data about the smoking habits of individual users.
The tobacco giant is already building a database of IQOS customers that register with the company. Philip Morris says it only uses the data to fix malfunctions in the device. Tom Lasseter was part of a team of Reuters reporters that investigated the IQOS to learn what it is truly capable of.
>> There's what the company has revealed publicly that it can now do, capture the number of puffs and the number of tobacco inserts smoked. PMI executives say that while they have that capability, the only time they extract such data is when looking into why an IQOS device has had a technical problem.
And then there is what our reporting shows the company could do. We interviewed a former project manager with Phillip Morris in Japan. Who said he tested a software application that could take data about a smoker's routine, like number of puffs and average consumption per day, and use it for marketing purposes.
Phillip Morris says the data from internal controls of the device quote, is not used for marketing purposes whatsoever.>> A company specializing in device tear downs, called Tech Insights based in Canada, took apart an IQOS for Reuters. And found that with modifications, the device could support the storing of usage information that could then be sent back to Philip Morris.
From the product description of the chips used, that could include the number of puffs by a user, and how many times they smoked in a given day. When Phillip Morris was presented with the findings of Tech Insight's analysis, the company said in a statement quote, no data information from the device is linked to a specific customer, only the device.
Reuters spoke to a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Greg Connolly, who has researched the IQOS tech and patents. He said the device will give Philip Morris remarkable power.>> He says quote, what they're going to have is a mega database of how Americans smoke. Then they'll be able to reprogram the current puffing delivery pattern of the IQOS to one that may be more reinforcing with a higher addiction potential.
Told of those remarks, Philips Morris referred Reuters to comments by one of its vice presidents at an FDA hearing earlier this year. The vice president told a panel of scientific experts that quote, I can reassure that there's no technology in there that's intended to manipulate in anyway what is delivered from IQOS.
>> At that same hearing of a panel of experts for the FDA in January, the Phillips Morris vice president explained how the company is using Bluetooth in the device. She said, for example, IQOS could prompt a message asking why someone had not used it, asking if they'd stop smoking or gone back to standard cigarettes.
The company described its market for the IQOS as smokers who would not otherwise quit traditional cigarettes. A scientific panel at the January FDA hearing voted its approval of a finding, that studies show switching from cigarettes to IQOS significantly reduces a smoker's exposure to harmful chemicals. They also found Phil Morris had not demonstrated the same reduction is reasonably likely to result in a quote, measurable and substantial reduction in disease or death.