Concerns raised over smokeless tobacco device

(CBS) -- Not far from Niagara Falls on a hip street in Toronto, Philip Morris is building what it says is the future of tobacco.

An IQOS boutique, one of many now open in about 30 countries, is where Philip Morris promises to quit traditional cigarettes and sell IQOS instead.

Philip Morris International and its U.S. partner, Altria, did not accept our request for an interview or a demonstration of IQOS, so we came here to Toronto to experience the sales process ourselves.

We heard IQOS pitched as "a cleaner alternative to traditional cigarettes."

In a statement to CBS This Morning, Philip Morris International said: "Our goal is to convert every adult smoker who would otherwise keep smoking, to smoke-free products such as IQOS. We are also clear that IQOS is not risk-free.

What Philip Morris argues in its FDA application is that if smokers converted to IQOS it would "significantly reduce harm and the risk of tobacco-related disease."

But USC professor Adam Leventhal worries IQOS might actually drive people back to cigarettes.

"What concerns me, I think, is that this looks like a cigarette. It reminds you of a cigarette, and we know if you get reminded of cigarettes and if you're trying to quit, it's a high-risk situation. It makes you want to go back to smoking," he says.

The American cancer society cautions noting that most of the research on IQOS has been funded by Philip Morris. A recent independent review concluded that "the physical effects [of IQOS] on users are...not yet known."

“On the continuum, right, you have air here. Over here you have some sort of toxic gas, and then you have cigarettes. Then, probably somewhere in the middle heat-not-burn products like IQOS, and then somewhere down here electronic cigarettes potentially," says Leventhal.

Philip Morris says it welcomes "independent studies, and encourage(s) third parties to conduct their own research on smoke-free products and to verify our science."

The FDA's preliminary review of IQOS found fewer harmful chemicals but incomplete information regarding tobacco-related disease. Philip Morris has two separate applications before the FDA. The issue debated today involves whether IQOS can be marketed as a reduced-harm product. The other is approval for basic sales, which analysts say could come as soon as next month.