Tobacco giants Altria Group and Philip Morris International (PMI) were able to win new marketing authorization for the IQOS heat-not-burn system’s latest iteration.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greenlit the IQOS 3 system for sale in the United States, after the public health regulator greenlit the IQOS 2.4 system as a modified risk tobacco product. In simpler terms, the smoke-free tobacco product designed to heat tobacco instead of burning can now roll out the latest iteration of the IQOS system, which the company has said is “another important step forward for the tens of millions of American men and women who currently smoke” and still market it as a modified risk tobacco product.

FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products surmised the applications submitted by PMI demonstrated adequate evidence that the IQOS 3 system is appropriate for protecting public health. PMI noted the agency commented that it had found no evidence of increased uptake of IQOS by youth or young adults, while use patterns available for the previously authorized version of IQOS within the U.S. have not raised new concerns regarding product use in youth and young adults.

Given that the FDA already authorized the marketing of a previous IQOS device as reducing exposure to harmful chemicals for smokers who completely switch, this latest marketing authorization is a step forward for tobacco harm reduction products. The company has said it expects to file an application seeking a similar modified exposure marketing order for the IQOS 3 device.

Note, the companies producing smoke-free tobacco products as alternatives to smoking — including electronic cigarettes and vaporizers — have seen success in proving their worth for public health. The IQOS 3 system proves this and provides positive prospects for further developing modified risk products and the approval of e-cigarettes under the premarket tobacco application regulatory process mandated by law.

For both Altria, who hold the license to market IQOS in the U.S., and PMI, the IQOS 3 system authorization in the U.S. provides promising prospects for their core smoke-free products businesses moving into 2021.

It’s no surprise that large tobacco companies have been hit hard by the novel COVID-19 virus’s global pandemic. Analysts for The Motley Fool noted these sorts of companies could make big moves for their shareholders if they continue down the path of developing smoke-free products and phasing out combustible cigarettes in the coming decades.

For instance, PMI’s chief executive, André Calantzopoulos, has said in recent years that the world’s largest cigarette maker is still on track to shutter the sale of combustible products within 10 to 15 years in some countries, given the market possibilities of smoke-free products like vapes and heat-not-burn devices like the IQOS system.  “In just five years, approximately 11.7 million people around the world have stopped smoking and switched to IQOS,” he noted.

The numbers he mentions, including other metrics provided by different companies moving toward smoke-free products, have yet to be independently confirmed by an outside auditor. Nevertheless, the FDA has been satisfied with the evidence for developing modified risk products like the IQOS system, which could bode well for other products like e-cigarettes being authorized to simply stay on the market, ensuring smokers can choose to switch how they consume nicotine.