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iQos Review – How good is Heat not Burn anyway?

iQOS review

Over the last two years Heat not Burn products have gone from being an experiment on sale in a few selected test markets to an increasingly mainstream product. Several devices are on sale or in consumer testing, and public awareness of the technology is growing fast. There are quite a few exciting systems out there now, but the global leader has to be Philip Morris’s iQOS.

IQOS Special Offer

iQOS is the latest incarnation of PMI’s heated tobacco stick concept. The basic idea is that a short, cigarette-like tube containing a filter and processed tobacco is inserted into the end of a small electronic device. The device heats the tobacco to around 350°C, hot enough to release a vapour but not to cause combustion.

Early versions of the technology didn’t do very well in testing, but modern batteries and charging systems have made a huge difference. The technology has caught up with PMI’s ambitions for the concept, and the new version is proving to be a big success. Japan was an early test market, and iQOS has already built up a 13% share of the country’s tobacco sales. Even better, almost all users were already smokers and over 70% of them have completely switched to iQOS.

Heat not Burn UK first managed to test an iQOS at the Global Forum on Nicotine in June 2016. That was only a short trial of a few sticks – not the best sticks, either – but it was enough to prove to us that this was a device with a lot of potential. Since then we’ve had a lot more experience of iQOS, including a visit to PMI’s research centre in Neuchatel to see how the tobacco-filled Heets are made. In fact this site is now offering some great deals on iQOS and Heets.

Introducing iQOS

iQOS itself is a very compact and sleek device. It’s much smaller than a modern e-cigarette, roughly the size of the battery from a vape pen. It’s also simple; there’s just an LED and a button. A hole at one end lets you insert a Heet. This isn’t built for hobbyist vapers, who love being able to fiddle and customise; it’s aimed at smokers who want something that’s as close as possible to being as simple as a cigarette.

The device feels solid and well made, and the body is covered in a soft, comfortable rubberised finish. It also comes with a personal charging case; after each session the iQOS slips neatly into the case, and the case’s battery tops up the charge in the device. That’s an essential feature, as we’ll see.

Heets – the cigarette replacement

The iQOS, for all its neat efficiency, is just a sophisticated heater. What really makes the system work is the Heets you feed iQOS with. These look like short cigarettes (although they’re very different inside) and come in packs of 20, so buying them is a familiar experience for any smoker. In fact so is handling them; apart from the length they look and feel exactly like cigarettes – so much that, five years after quitting smoking, almost every time I take a Heet out of the pack I instinctively stick it in my mouth.

Don’t do that. Instead, insert it into the hole at the top of the iQOS. It looks like this might be fiddly, but in fact the hole is shaped to make Heets easy to insert. There’s a bit of resistance for the last half inch, because a blade at the bottom of the hole will be slicing into the plug of tobacco. This blade heats up to create the vapour.

Once the Heet is in place, just press the button to turn it on. As soon as the LED starts blinking green, the heater is active. In less than a minute it will stop blinking and glow steadily. At that point all you have to do is start puffing. After ten or twelve puffs the LED will blink again, and the device will automatically turn itself off.

Now selling IQOS and HEETS

Does it work?

The big question, of course, is what it’s like to use. Can it really replicate the feel of smoking an actual cigarette? This is obviously going to depend on how much flavour, throat hit and nicotine the vapour provides, as well as how much vapour there actually is. The good news here is that iQOS can indeed replicate a cigarette pretty well; it’s certainly close enough to be a satisfying substitute.

I did have a few doubts after my first trial in Poland. I used to smoke Marlboro Red, and then when they became too weak and bland for me I switched to West Red, a terrifyingly harsh German brand. I was never a fan of light or menthol cigarettes, so of course the only Heets available for my first iQOS experience were mild menthols. That meant I found it less than satisfying, but I gave the device itself the benefit of the doubt and blamed it on the sticks.

It turns out I was right to do that, because when I next tried iQOS there were Amber Heets available; they’re a much stronger, plain tobacco flavour that’s quite close to a Marlboro. At that point I was totally convinced; this device works. The vapour it produces is rich and warm, there’s enough of it to satisfy a smoker (although it doesn’t compare to a modern high-powered e-cigarette) and it doesn’t leave much of a lingering tobacco smell either.

The best thing of all is how closely using an iQOS mimics smoking. Once you have a Heet in and warmed up, all you have to do is pick it up and puff. There’s no fire button to worry about, and no tank to refill. It also feels right. Of course, it’s larger and heavier than a cigarette – but it’s close enough that you can hold it like one. The filter on a Heet also feels exactly like a cigarette filter; in fact replicating the feel is really the only reason it’s there. You don’t need to get used to the feel of a hard metal or plastic mouthpiece.

iQOS holder

The verdict

Overall, iQOS is a very impressive device. A lot of time and resources have gone into developing it, to get it as close to the smoking experience as possible. Its battery life is short, but the charging case gets round that easily. Using it is simple, efficient and satisfying. If you need any proof of that, just look at how many converts it’s picking up. iQOS is now on sale in over twenty countries, and there are already millions of happy users all over the world. If you want to quit smoking, but e-cigs don’t do it for you, this clever heated tobacco product is the way ahead.

Want to make the change today from years of smoking combustible cigarettes? Then click the banner below to be taken to our UK based online store where we are now selling the new iQOS starter kit complete with 60 HEETS for just £49! You will struggle to find a better deal on the iQOS than this. 😉

IQOS special offer

This review, originally written in July 2016, has been revised and updated because we have a lot more experience of iQOS now.

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We are now selling iQOS and HEETS.

Selling iQOS and HEETS

IQOS white and navy devices

Heat Not Burn UK, not satisfied with being the most comprehensive blog in the world on everything there is to know about Heat Not Burn are now actually selling the superb iQOS system along with corresponding HEETS tobacco sticks.

We currently have a special offer on all iQOS kits and that is the special price of just £49 for either a navy or white iQOS starter kit along with 3 packets of HEETS! The recommended retail price for the iQOS is £99 so our price of £49 for the starter kit and 3 packets of HEETS (60 sticks) is a fantastic offer!

Shipping is either with APC, Royal Mail or Royal Mail International and all orders are sent out very promptly.

Also every iQOS kit sold comes with a no-quibble 1 YEAR GUARANTEE too, click the banner below to be taken to our online store.

 

Now selling IQOS and HEETS banner

 

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iQOS Update – What’s Inside A Heet

iQOS update

One of the most popular pages on this site is our review of Philip Morris’s innovative iQOS device. That’s not much of a surprise, because iQOS has probably had more publicity than any other Heat not Burn product and it’s also the most widely available. It’s steadily rolling out beyond the first test markets and can now be bought in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries; before too long it will be available globally, and I think it’s going to be a huge success.

When Heat not Burn UK first tested the iQOS the only sticks that came with it were mild menthols. Those were not as satisfying as they could have been, but did prove the concept. Happily, during our visit to PMI’s research centre at Neuchatel a couple of months ago there was no shortage of them in all flavours, and I got the chance to try an iQOS with a full-strength stick. I’m happy to report that it was very close to the experience of smoking a Marlboro, and an excellent substitute in every way.

Now selling HEETS banner

Sticky Stuff

Obviously, what made the difference between “Meh, this is okay” on the first iQOS test and “Wow!” on the second one was the sticks it was being fed with. That means it’s probably time to look at the sticks themselves in a bit more detail.

The baby cigarettes that go in the end of an iQOS were originally called HeatSticks, but they’ve now been rebranded as “Heets from Marlboro”. Currently Heets come in three flavours – Amber, which roughly equates to full-strength Marlboro Red; Yellow, a lighter Marlboro Gold; and Turquoise, the mild menthol version. As far as I can tell these all have the same nicotine content, and the only difference is in the flavour.

Anyway, I just called them baby cigarettes. They’re not. Yes, they look like baby cigarettes, and they come in a tiny pack of twenty, but you can’t stick them in your mouth and fire them up with your trusty Zippo. That just won’t work. Even if it did work it would be pretty pointless, because the whole idea is that you don’t burn the tobacco.

In fact there really isn’t a lot of tobacco in there to burn, anyway. Looking at a Heet, you can see that the filter seems to take up about three-quarters of its length:

HEET cut open showing inside
There are quite a few bits in here.

Not Just Tobacco

It’s not quite this simple, but we’ll come back to that. What’s in the other quarter is the stuff that gets heated, and I’ve actually had the chance to watch it being made in the factory at Neuchatel. PMI made me promise not to put all their trade secrets on the internet, but I can tell you the basics. What they do is blend selected tobaccos to get the flavour they want, then grind them to a fine powder. This is then mixed with water and some other ingredients – vegetable glycerine to keep it moist and generate the vapour; natural cellulose fibres to bind it; and guar (a natural gum) to hold the whole lot together.

This liquid mixture is sprayed onto a conveyor belt, run through a dryer then peeled off in thin sheets. The brown stuff in the end of a Heet is those sheets, rolled up like tobacco leaves in a cigar. When you load a Heet into your iQOS a steel blade in the device cuts into the roll, and when the blade heats up it creates the vapour for you to inhale. That vapour is mostly VG, loaded with aromatic flavours from the tobacco – which is why iQOS can replicate the flavour of a cigarette in a way that e-cigs can never quite manage.

So what else is in a Heet? Well, it’s not just the filter. In fact the filter itself is very short, as you can see:

Showing the separate contents of the HEET
From left to right: The tobacco, hollow tube, PLA and filter.

The actual filter is even smaller than the plug of tobacco at the other end, and it’s really only there to give you the familiar feel of a cigarette filter. Because iQOS doesn’t produce all the harsh combustion compounds you get from a cigarette there’s no real need for much filtration, so it can be very short. In fact if it was much longer it would probably soak up a lot of the VG vapour that you want to inhale.

After the filter is a loose roll of PLA, a very stable, food-safe plastic material. This is what does the real work; it slows the vapour down without absorbing it, giving it time to cool to a more pleasant temperature before you inhale it. This takes up almost half the length of the entire Heet.

Between the PLA and the tobacco is a short length of hollow tube, made of a similar material to the filter. As far as I understand it this is mainly to keep the blade away from the PLA and give the vapour a clear path to start its journey through the Heet. Then finally, at the end, you’ll find that little plug of tobacco.

Small But Complicated

So a Heet might look like a cigarette, but inside it’s a bit more complicated. This, and the fact they’re so small, means they’re also trickier to make; PMI had to do some creative rebuilding of some old but reliable cigarette-making machines to come up with something that would make Heets.

All this effort has paid off, though. It might be tiny, but a Heet will give as many puffs as a full-size cigarette. If you get the strength that suits you those puffs are just as satisfying, too. I had a few lingering doubts about iQOS after my first experiment with it in Poland last year, but using an identical device with Amber Heets was a totally different experience.

What’s most exciting is that, while iQOS isn’t the first generation of this technology, it’s still at a relatively early stage; there’s a lot of potential for development in there. I’m increasingly sure that HnB products like this have a very bright future in front of them.

If you are thinking of making the switch then please visit our online store today, click the banner below for more details. We sell everything you need to get you started and at a fantastic price too, come and try the future today!

IQOS online special

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Buy an iQOS with 60 HEETS for just £49.

Buy IQOS

Here at Heat Not Burn UK we are very passionate about harm reduction and that is one of the reasons that we have embraced the iQOS more than any other heated tobacco device, it is in our own humble opinion the best heated tobacco device currently on the market bar none.

Well we have now teamed up with a very good UK dealer and are able to offer up a fantastic deal on the PMI iQOS.

The deal we are able to offer is a complete iQOS starter kit in either navy or white complete with 3 packs of HEETS (60 sticks) for the fantastic price of only £49. The R.R.P of the iQOS is £89 and the cheapest you can get HEETS for is around £7 so this deal would normally be retailing at around £110 but right here on this website you can get that all for just £49 for a limited period.

If you are fed up of smoking traditional cigarettes then this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a great offer. PMI (Philip Morris International) already know that the traditional cigarettes days are numbered, why not come and join the revolution?

All iQOS starter kits are genuine, come with a one year “no quibble” guarantee, our shipping is fast and our customer service is second to none, what’s not to like?

As for the HEETS they are available in 3 different flavours: Amber is for the smoker who prefers the full strength taste, yellow is more of a smoother flavour and for any fans of menthol then our Turquoise HEETS are perfect!

Also if you are just looking for genuine HEETS on their own we sell them too and you can buy a carton of ten packs for just £70, which works out at £7 a pack.

Click here to be taken to our online store!

IQOS online special offer

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Dud or diamond? – The VCOT from Ewildfire

VCOT from Ewildfire

So, it’s that time again. The postman delivered a parcel from China last week, I’ve been playing with a new gadget since then, and now it’s time to give all you Heat not Burn fans the inside scoop on the latest and greatest (well, we’ll see about that) in tobacco vaporisation technology.

This time, my new toy is the VCOT from Ewildfires. It’s the latest product from Shenzhen, the Chinese industrial region that’s become the global hub of e-cigarette manufacturing and is now trying to grab a foothold in the HnB market as well. We’ve already reviewed a few devices from Chinese companies – the iBuddy i1, EFOS E1 and NOS – and a couple of them were pretty impressive. So how does the VCOT stack up?

The Review

The VCOT is brand new – so new that I’m not going to go through the traditional unboxing experience. The retail packaging hasn’t even been designed yet, so my review sample turned up in a plain cardboard box and a nest of bubble wrap, with no accessories. There wasn’t even an instruction manual; that arrived by email. It wouldn’t be fair to comment – or even speculate – on packaging and accessories that I haven’t seen, so for this review I’ll only be looking at the vaporiser itself.

As I said, the VCOT is brand new, and its designers have obviously tried to push the technological envelope a bit. Like the NOS we looked at a few weeks ago it’s a temperature-controlled device that lets you set the operating temperature to get the vape you want.

Bottom view of the VCOTApart from the temperature control feature, the VCOT is pretty conventional. It uses PMI’s widely available Heets, for a start. The body is basically rectangular with rounded edges and corners, and it fits nicely in the hand. You can’t hold it like a cigarette, as you can with iQOS, but it’s comfortable enough. It’s also very light. The body seems to be all metal and made in three parts; front, back, and a strip that forms the top and base as well as holding it all together.

So if the body is all metal, how come the device is so light? The answer is that the metal is very thin. The front and back are stamped out of sheet. I don’t know what the sheet is, but it isn’t steel – I couldn’t get my neodymium supermagnets to stick to it. It could be aluminium; the glossy, deep blue finish looks like it could be anodised.

Unfortunately, the thin metal gives the VCOT a slightly flimsy feel. If I squeeze the body between finger and thumb it flexes slightly and lets out a chorus of creaking and clicking sounds. Shaking it isn’t reassuring either; something – probably the battery pack – rattles around inside. That isn’t just an annoyance, because if things are free to move it increases wear and tear on wiring, so the device is more likely to fail (more on that later).

Top view of the VCOTMoving on, the VCOT has the usual Heet-sized (more on that, too) hole at the top, protected by a sliding plastic cover. The cover feels solid and has grooves moulded into its surface, so it’s easy to operate. The heating chamber itself is similar to the EFOS – there’s no spike or blade, and the heating element is built into the walls of the chamber. On the base of the device is a micro-USB charging port and an air intake hole that lines up with the heating chamber.

All the work is done at the front of the device, on an inlaid black plastic panel. At the top of this is the power button, and at the bottom the temperature up/down buttons and a blue LED to show current status. In between the buttons is a 0.7” OLED screen, which gives a nice clear, bright image.

So, on build quality, the VCOT isn’t really up to the standard of the other devices I’ve reviewed. Even the plastic-bodied EFOS has a much more solid feel to it. On the other hand the VCOT does pack in a 2,200mAh battery, which hints at good battery life, and it has the advantage of temperature control. If a gadget performs well I can easily overlook a creaky casing. So how does the VCOT stack up when it comes to actually vaping?

Vaping the VCOT

Putting a full charge in the VCOT takes about an hour, which is pretty reasonable, and you’ll know when it’s done – the LED on the front blinks brightly while it’s charging, and the battery indicator on the screen makes it easy to see how much progress you’re making. When the LED and screen switch off it’s fully charged and ready to go.

Loading the VCOT is pretty simple; all you have to do is slide the cover back and push the tobacco end of the Heet into the heating chamber. This has to be done carefully though, as there’s a bit of resistance for the last half inch. With no blade or spike to force into the tobacco, this turns out to be because the heating chamber is a tighter fit than the EFOS. Still, I managed to get all my Heets in without breaking them, so it’s not a major problem.

With a stick in the chamber you can now turn the VCOT on by pressing the power button five times. I think I’ve already vented my feelings about this; a single long press on the button is just as resistant to accidental activation, and these microswitches won’t last an infinite number of presses. Again, though, this isn’t a big deal.

Once the device turns on you’ll see the temperature readout on the screen start to rise. While it’s heating up you can use the up and down buttons to adjust it to the temperature you want. The temperature range is from 220-250°C, which seemed a bit on the low side; iQOS runs at 350°C, and when I played with the NOS a few weeks ago it was happiest between 320°C and 335°C. The VCOT seemed to be pitched a little low, but as it turned out this wasn’t really an issue.

Here’s something that was an issue; it takes forever to heat up. Our current champ in that respect is the NOS, which went from room temperature to 325°C in a mere nine seconds. The VCOT took just over a minute (61 seconds, to be precise) to show 250°C on the display, and that just isn’t good enough. Then it kept me hanging on for another 20 seconds before it buzzed to tell me it was ready to vape.

The vape’s OK, if you set it to 250°C.

A few little issues

A vaping session on the VCOT lasts for three minutes and 30 seconds. When your time’s up it simply buzzes and switches off; there’s no warning to give you time to grab a last puff. Then it’s time to take out the used Heet – and that’s where the fun really begins.

With most of the HnB devices I’ve tested (the Glo and NOS are honourable exceptions) I’ve had the occasional stick leave its plug of tobacco behind in the chamber. This is mildly annoying, but no big deal; you can easily take the top of the device apart and dig out the debris with a brush.

Burned and broken Heets – not a good sign.

With the VCOT, about half the Heets I used broke off at the joint between the tobacco plug and the hollow section above it. The first time this happened (which was also the first Heet I vaped with it) I found, to my annoyance, that there’s no way to dismantle the device for easier access to the chamber. I had to resort to digging out the tobacco with a bit of wire, then using a brush to clear the remaining debris.

Examining this debris, and the Heets I managed to extract in one piece, was interesting. The display might say 250°C, but the inside of the chamber is getting hot enough to char the Heet’s paper tube quite badly – and, a lot of the time, it’s burning it to ash. That seems to be why so many of them break; the paper disintegrates and lets the foil liner stick to the wall of the chamber. The actual tobacco isn’t burned, like it was with the EFOS, but I’m still not convinced this is really in the Heat not Burn spirit.

I also found that, sometimes, the VCOT just doesn’t work. I’d press the button five times, the display would light up, then the temperature readout would stick at either the high 20s or the high 40s. If I left it alone, an error message would flash up on the screen – “CHECK FPC!” – or it would just turn itself off. After some fiddling I found that sometimes pulling out the Heet would unblock it; the temperature would start to rise, and I could put the Heet back in and wait for it to reach operating temperature. Other times I had to plug in the charging cable briefly, which seemed to reset it, then I could power it back up again.

Conclusions

I’m conscious that this is a pre-release device, so I don’t want to be too hard on it. The VCOT has some potential. It’s compact and has decent battery life – a full charge will see you through a pack of Heets and maybe a little more. The vape is acceptable at the higher end of the temperature range. If it’s priced appropriately it could be a reasonable choice for those on a budget – as long as these points are fixed:

  • The heating chamber needs to be made slightly larger; it’s too tight. With no way to dismantle the device for cleaning, its tendency to tear the ends off used Heets isn’t acceptable.
  • Heat up time needs to be radically reduced, to 20 seconds or less. More than a minute is simply not good enough.
  • Reliability needs to be improved. I expect a device like this to work properly every time I switch it on. The VCOT doesn’t.
  • Whatever’s rattling around inside needs to be fixed in place. Any movement risks weakening, and eventually breaking, soldered joints. Is this the cause of its unreliability? Could be.

Deal with all these issues and, as I said, the VCOT might have some potential. It does have temperature control and its battery life is better than the NOS, so there are a couple of positives there. However, right now I just can’t recommend it. Get an iQOS instead.

 

 

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Heat not Burn news roundup – August 2018

Heat not Burn news roundup

Over the last few weeks we’ve been pretty busy finding new Heat not Burn devices to review, and we have a few on their way to us right now. We still find time to check the news, though, and we decided it was time to give you another update on what’s happening with HnB around the world.

As usual the news is a pretty mixed bag. There’s some good news from the UK, where a parliamentary committee has given HnB a thumbs-up in its latest report on reduced-harm products. There’s bad news from India, where anti-tobacco activists are spreading misinformation about iQOS before it’s even on sale. Philip Morris are challenging New Zealand rules that force Heets to be sold with the same packaging and health warnings as cigarettes, and slowing growth for iQOS is being chalked up to increasing competition as other companies enter the market. Overall the last few weeks have been pretty lively for HnB, and we don’t expect that to slow down any time soon.

Indian ANTZ take aim at iQOS

iQOS is currently on sale in 38 countries around the world, but hasn’t yet challenged cigarettes in one of their biggest markets – India. PMI is now planning to launch the device in India, most likely in the first half of 2019, but anti-harm reduction activists are already mobilising to protect the status quo. The first salvo in this battle was fired in mid-August with an article in The Hindu, one of India’s two leading newspapers.

The article was written by Vandana Shah, South Asia Programs Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an American organisation that’s already notorious for its fanatical opposition to e-cigarettes. As would be expected from Tobacco Free Kids it’s very light on science, and very heavy on alarming but unfounded claims. Shah tells us that there’s no evidence HnB is safer than smoking (there is) and that the products are aimed at young people (they’re not). He claims iQOS is “designed and packaged to resemble a sleek smartphone” to appeal to under-25s – the only thing its design has in common with a smartphone is that it’s vaguely rectangular.

In another article, published by the Deccan Chronicle, cancer specialist Dr Vijay Anand Reddy claimed that “any form of tobacco is carcinogenic. The new method of heated tobacco does not mean that the chemicals in the products are reduced.” This statement is simply false; tests conducted by independent labs have found dramatic reductions in all significant toxins in iQOS vapour compared to cigarette smoke.

Almost a quarter of a billion Indians use traditional tobacco products, so a successful iQOS launch in the country has the potential to save a huge number of lives. However, that goal is threatened by extremists like Shah and Reddy. Indian harm reduction advocates need to come out fighting before this propaganda swings public opinion against safer products.

HnB competition heats up

Investment experts are talking down PMI shares this week in what many have interpreted as a sign of weakness in the market. Leading adviser Jefferies Group have changed their “Buy” recommendation to “Hold”, meaning that while hanging on to the shares is a good idea this isn’t the right time to be buying more.

Jefferies Group’s actual explanation for the change is good news for Heat not Burn, though. The downgrade was triggered by slower than expected growth in iQOS sales – and that’s happening because rival products are hitting the shelves. While iQOS is still growing and will continue to do so, it’s now facing some serious competition at last; BAT’s Glo is rolling out across Europe this year, KT&G are mounting a strong challenge in the important South Korean market with their Lil, and Chinese industry is piling on with a series of devices that piggyback on the availability of PMI’s Heets (and will probably help keep Heet sales rising).

Despite the downgrade, PMI is still outperforming Altria – the cigarette-only side of Philip Morris. That’s being driven by strong iQOS growth in Europe and other new markets, while Altria’s cigarette sales are sharply down.

PMI challenges NZ packaging rules for Heets

The last legal obstacles to selling Heets in New Zealand seem to have been removed, but PMI says the country’s laws are still too restrictive. In early August the company announced that to comply with the Ministry of Health’s interpretation of the law, they’ll put the HnB consumables in cigarette-style standardised packaging with the usual gruesome health warnings. However they’re only doing that under protest.

James Williams, general manager of Philip Morris NZ, says that labelling Heets with health warnings meant for cigarettes is “inappropriate and misleading”. With a growing body of evidence to say that HnB products eliminate almost all the health risks of smoking, the company wants the laws on packaging to reflect that key difference. While PMI are happy to note that Heets are not risk-free and do contain nicotine, they object to warnings that falsely claim iQOS produces smoke and causes the same health issues as cigarettes do.

According to Williams smokers deserve access to accurate and non-misleading information about reduced-risk products. Right now, New Zealand’s packaging laws aren’t giving them that.

UK parliament committee backs HnB

A report last week by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee was praised for strongly supporting e-cigarettes – but it also recommended that the government should ease restrictions and lower taxes on other tobacco harm reduction products, including HnB and Swedish snus. According to the influential committee tobacco products should be taxed at a rate that reflects the health risk they present.

HnB devices like iQOS are, conservatively, at least 90% less harmful than cigarettes, and that could make a big difference to the price of Heets. Right now, Heets are priced at roughly the same point as cigarettes, but that’s a hedge against them being taxed at the same level in the future. If they benefited from a much lover rate of tax there would be room for PMI to cut the price dramatically while still making a profit. iQOS and similar devices are already a tempting alternative to cigarettes; if the price of Heets fell in proportion to the reduced risk they deliver they’d attract even more smokers.

 

IQOS Online Special Offer

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Bad news: FCTC will declare war on heat not burn

FCTC

Bad news: FCTC will declare war on heat-not-burn (they just haven’t gotten organized yet.)

by Carl V Phillips, PhD.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO’s FCTC) is the most influential tobacco control enterprise in the world. Consumers in rich Western countries may not often notice FCTC’s impact because their dominant domestic tobacco control, such as the FDA in the US, are large and powerful enough to set their own agenda. But even in the West, FCTC’s agenda creates marching orders that a lot of tobacco control organizations follow. Thus, all heat-not-burn consumers should feel some trepidation about FCTC slowly getting organized to attack them. Their next attempt to attack heat not burn will be at the upcoming eighth session of the Conference of the Parties (better known as COP8) taking place in Geneva, Switzerland from 1st to 6th October 2018.

That “slowly” is the good news here. FCTC is a morass cheap-talk meetings, position statements, and bureaucracy (in the pejorative sense of the term). In theory it is an international treaty, but in practice it is a reactionary collection of people who would rather complain and make excuses for their failures than actually do the hard work needed to accomplish their goals.

The bad news is also embedded in that characterization, in “reactionary” and “their goals.” As I previously explored in detail, tobacco control in general, and FCTC in particular, is primarily concerned not about affecting consumers, let alone helping them, but with hurting what they call “the industry.” This mythical monolithic actor includes everyone who sells tobacco products, and if convenient for them, is expanded to include any consumer advocate or anyone else that questions their diktats. FCTC officially claims their goal is improving health, but this simply is not true, as evidenced by their active opposition to promoting the substitution of low-risk products for cigarettes.

They do not even recommend that policy interventions focus on cigarettes and other high-risk products. Instead, they explicitly insist that the same effort be devoted to discouraging all product use, regardless of risk. For example, they explicitly state that tax rates be the same on all products. While this is technically nonsense (what tax rate on a tin of snus or bottle of e-liquid is “the same” as a given tax on a pack of cigarettes?), the spirit of it is a clear lack of concern about health. One of the reasons so many Japanese switched to heat-not-burn is its favorable tax treatment (which might end).

FCTC declares their goals are diametrically opposed to those of industry, and spend as much energy focusing on attacking industry as on all anti-smoking policies combined. In some sense this is good news, because it slows them down a lot. But it makes them entirely reactionary, defining their policies in terms of industry actions: Whatever “the industry” tries to do, FCTC tries to interfere with. This is especially true for the major tobacco companies, which is to say, the companies that have introduced heat-not-burn devices. It does not matter to FCTC that people, not companies, want and use heat-not-burn; in their mind, attacking heat-not-burn use is attacking PMI and BAT. Consumers are an afterthought for them, at best.

One might hope that FCTC’s relative silence suggests they are not entirely opposed to a low-risk product that replaced almost 20% of the smoking in Japan and has made impressive inroads in other countries. But keep in mind that they did not get around to seriously attacking e-cigarettes until the last couple of years. They are slow, not flexible.

Amusingly, some of FCTC’s most emphatic policy recommendations focus on setting up research centers, what someone might call spy agencies, devoted to reporting on industry activities in a particular country or region. FCTC calls this “monitoring,” and the goal is to strangle innovations in their crib and be ready to “respond to myths created by the tobacco industry” (by which they mean “contradict anything said by industry, regardless of whether it is true or not”). The obvious subtext is “we blew it on e-cigarettes, and are only now managing to trick people into believing they are dangerous, so we have to get ahead of the next innovation.”

Of course, they already failed to do that with heat-not-burn. These are not good spy agencies. Their expensive monitoring efforts would have been more effective if they just had on staffer whose job it was to read Twitter.

Still, whatever industry wants to sell, FCTC will want to stop, and they will probably get organized about heat-not-burn over the next year. Their catch-up playbook is easy to predict based on what happened with e-cigarettes. It includes pressuring countries where the products are not yet popular to preemptively ban them, spreading disinformation about risks from the products, and demanding that all anti-cigarette efforts be expanded to cover the new product. Indeed, they will probably push for anti-cigarette efforts to be redirected to focus more on the low-risk product than on smoking.

The only policy area in which the FCTC agenda differentiates among tobacco products is smoking place bans, because the ostensible goal is trying to protect people from environmental smoke (never mind that their policies do not really protect people). They will inevitably lobby governments to include heat-not-burn products in all smoking place bans, even those that do not cover e-cigarettes.

To finish on a more optimistic note, regulators in many rich countries are much friendlier with big corporations than with their smaller competitors. FCTC hates PMI and BAT far more than they hate the independent vapor sector (though they are quite happy to destroy the latter also). US FDA, by contrast, has an institutional preference for dealing with big companies who can navigate the agency’s kafkaesque procedures. They would prefer to eliminate small vapor product companies (and are on a path to do so) and deal only with the majors.

FDA recently approved the sale of BAT’s current Eclipse heat-not-burn products, based on them being “substantially equivalent” to long-extant, though barely noticed, RJR products (as of last year, RJR is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BAT). They did not have to do this, and have denied “substantial equivalence” applications by smaller companies for reasons that could have been used in this case.

On the other hand, FDA is still sitting on PMI’s application to sell iQOS as a “modified risk tobacco product,” a more onerous approval process than “substantial equivalence.” They are already in violation of the legal deadline for responding to the application, and anything could happen. But the Eclipse approvals bode well. Positive outcomes can be expected in rich countries with self-confident regulators (and thus ignore FCTC pressure) who have a cozy relationship with big business. Unfortunately, most of the world’s smokers have little protection from the FCTC.


As passionate as we are about reduced risk products Heat Not Burn UK will campaign strongly for your own personal right to choose when it comes to harm reduction, as we believe the more options out there the better.

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Another New Gadget – the NOS Tobacco Vaporizer

NOS Tobacco Vapouriser

When Heat not Burn UK launched, we had a real struggle finding new devices to talk about. There was the iQOS, and then there was . . . OK, there was the iQOS, and that was pretty much it. We looked at a couple of loose leaf vaporizers, which turned out to work pretty well with tobacco if you prepare it the right way, but as far as purpose-made HnB devices went, iQOS was really the only game in town.

That’s changing now. Chinese manufacturers are starting to come up with their own designs and it’s all getting quite exciting. I’ve already tested a couple of new devices from China this year – the iBuddy i1 and EFOS E1 – and recently I got another one to play with. The new toy is the NOS from Shenzhen Huachang Industrial Company, and like the other two it used PMI’s Heets. It also has a couple of interesting features that made me very keen to try it out. I’ve spent the last week giving it the usual HnB UK test, and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

The Review

The NOS comes in a sturdy and attractive cardboard box. The outer box is in two halves that were sealed with a sticker; once I’d cut that and pulled the halves apart a flap was revealed, with the NOS underneath in a little foam nest. Lifting the foam out, I found a warranty card and quick start guide, and under those was another layer of foam holding a USB charger and plug, some cleaning sticks and the heating coil, which needs to be installed before using the device.

Once I’d pawed through everything in the box I took a look at the device itself. The NOS is quite small – a fraction of an inch longer than an iQOS, and a lot less bulky than most  of the others I’ve looked at. Its mostly rectangular body looks like a very small box mod with an oversized iQOS cap attached to the top. Just below the cap the body swells out slightly into a thumb rest with the power button set into it, and below the thumb rest is a small OLED screen and two more buttons. There’s a micro USB charging port in the base, and that’s it in the way of controls.

As well as being small the NOS is also light. The body is all plastic – there are a couple of panels set into the sides with a carbon fibre pattern on them, but those are just for decoration. However, it seems solid and well put together, with an overall quality feel to it. Inside is a built-in 1,100mAh 18500 battery. The top cap can be easily removed to give access to the heating coil; just twist it slightly anticlockwise and a spring will pop it off. That reveals a well that the coil simply screws into; then simply push the cap back down against the spring and twist it clockwise to lock it back into position.

I was impressed right away at the removable coil. Like the iQOS, the NOS uses a blade to heat the tobacco, but in this case the blade is made of ceramic. That should give it a longer life than a steel blade – Huachang say it’s good for more than 5,000 sticks – but does make it a bit more fragile, so don’t twist Heets as you insert or remove them; you could snap the blade off. To protect it, the blade is mostly hidden inside the body of the coil. When you fit the top cap to the device its inner tube pushes down a spring-loaded platform to reveal the blade.

Now let’s talk about that OLED screen and the two buttons below it. You might remember from my review of the EFOS that it has two temperature settings (one of which is hot enough to char the tip of the Heet), but with that exception HnB devices run at a fixed temperature. The NOS is different. It’s the first HnB product with a real temperature control capability. Those two little buttons let you adjust the temperature from 300°C to 400°C in five degree increments, so you can customise your vaping experience to suit your own preferences.

The NOS in action

Obviously I was pretty keen to try that out, so I topped up the battery – it takes less than an hour to put in a full charge – and broke open a pack of Bronze Heets. The first one fitted easily down the end cap, and I fired the NOS up by pressing the power button five times.

This is where I started to get seriously impressed. The screen lit up and a NOS logo briefly appeared, then the word HEATING. Nine seconds after the last press of the button that changed to WORKING – and so it was. The NOS heats up even faster than the Lil, which is rather nice.

As for how it vapes, I had no complaints there either. The taste wasn’t quite as good as the iQOS, and I have no idea why – I was using exactly the same Heets in both devices. There was plenty of vapour, though, and there was nothing wrong with the taste; the iQOS just seems, to me, to have a slight edge there.

Once it’s up and running the NOS will work for four minutes or twelve puffs, whichever comes sooner. You’ll get a warning buzz five seconds before it shuts down, which just gives you time to grab a final puff.

As far as battery life goes, well, it’s OK but not spectacular. A full charge is good for about ten to twelve sessions, and then you’re going to have to plug it in. It’s not as good as either the iQOS’s portable charging case or Lil and iBuddy’s day-long power capacity, but it’s not actively bad – and it lasts as long as the EFOS despite being a much smaller, neater package.

Anyway, let’s go back to the temperature control feature. This is very easy to use. With the NOS powered up, just press one of the buttons to bring up the display. This will be familiar to any vaper; there’s a battery charge icon,  large digits show the current temperature, and smaller numbers tell you the resistance and voltage (3.8V and 1.3Ω, I case you’re interested).

I ran a couple of packs of Heets through it at the default setting it came at, which was 325°C. Then I broke out another pack, set the device to 300°C and started to work through the pack, clicking it up by 5°C after each Heet. My reasoning was that with 20 Heets in a pack and 5° increments, I could test the full temperature range with a single pack and get an idea of how temperature affected the experience.

Well, I didn’t make it all the way. Not even close, in fact. Anything below 320°C was a bit on the weak side for me. Then I hit a sweet spot at 325°C – how it came out the box, in other words. It was even better at 330-335°, but then things started going downhill again. At 340° there was a vaguely unpleasant burned aftertaste, subtly different from the burned taste of an actual cigarette. At 345°C that was much stronger, and I can’t say I was sorry when it switched itself off. I wasn’t looking forward to 350° very much, and I was right – it was pretty horrible. When the NOS v2 comes out, I’d like to see it going from 300 to 340°C in two-degree increments, because a lot of its current range just isn’t going to get used.

Yes, we test these things pretty thoroughly

After my experiment in temperature control I dropped the power back to 330°C for the rest of the test, and confirmed what I already thought – at that sort of temperature the NOS delivers a very enjoyable vape. We do give these products a proper test, by the way. A typical review involves at least 100 Heets over several days, so the device needs to be cleaned and recharged several times. This isn’t just an unboxing and a couple of quick puffs for the camera.

Conclusions

So anyway, I ran over 100 Heets through the NOS; what do I think of it? Well, I think it’s pretty good! Bigger than the iQOS but smaller than everything else I’ve tried, and with a decent vaping quality, this is a real contender if you’re looking for a safer way to use tobacco. The temperature control feature is its real innovation, and while I don’t think the current setup is perfect it does start to give HnB users the degree of control over the experience that vapers already have. For a price of around $85, the NOS is definitely worth a look.

 

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So What’s A Pod Mod?

Pod mod

When I started writing about Heat not Burn I didn’t think it was going to be controversial. Well, I was wrong. The thing is, I’m a vaping advocate and my name isn’t exactly unknown in the e-cigarette debate. As far as I was concerned, HnB was all part of the same concept – a safer alternative to cigarettes that has the potential to save the lives of smokers.

Unfortunately, it seems not all vapers agree. Over the last couple of months there’s been an astonishing string of attacks on HnB by some people who, even if they’re just YouTube reviewers, really should know better.

The actual arguments these people use are silly, with a bit of ignorance sprinkled on top – did you know a Heet was just a cigarette that’s been dipped in PG? I sure didn’t, and I’ve watched them being made. There’s also a lot of conspiracy theory rubbish about how PMI are trying to take over vape shops by asking them if they want to sell iQOS. PMI have enough money that, if they wanted to take over vape shops, there’s a much simpler way to do it – just buy them.

Anyway, after a few conversations, I’ve worked out that what really annoys them is they think HnB is the “wrong” way to use nicotine. Part of that is that it that they use tobacco. It’s amazing how completely some vapers have swallowed the line that tobacco itself is bad, when in fact it’s just the smoke you should avoid. The involvement of the tobacco companies seems to cause a lot of tears, too; some vapers sound scarily like Deborah Arnott of ASH when they get onto the subject of PMI, BAT and all the other companies whose products they were happy enough to buy for decades. Lastly, some of them just seem to be vape snobs. If you’re not getting your nicotine from a boutique liquid, vaporised by hand-built coils powered by the latest high-end mod, you’re no better than a filthy smoker.

Well, I don’t care about any of this. I’m fine with tobacco, I’m too adult to blame the tobacco industry for all the cigarettes I freely chose to buy from them, and I’m not a snob. If someone couldn’t care less about fancy mods and liquids, and just wants a nice simple device they can pick up at Tesco’s tobacco counter, I’m fine with that. And this brings us, finally, to pod mods.

What’s a pod mod?

The first thing I should say about pod mods (also known as pod vapes) is that they’re not really mods; the name seems to have stuck to them because it’s sort of snappy and it rhymes. What they really are is the latest incarnation of the old-style cigalikes a lot of us started vaping with. The difference is that while cigalikes were awful, pod mods are actually rather good.

If you’ve already seen a pod mod you’re probably thinking that they don’t actually look very much like cigalikes. You’re right; they don’t. The basic concept is pretty much the same, though. They have a compact battery with an automatic switch, no controls, and the liquid is contained in a disposable cartridge (the pod) that snaps on to one end. There are three main differences, though:

  • Abandoning the cigarette shape lets them pack in a lot more battery capacity while staying slim and compact enough to be held like a cigarette.
  • The coils are a lot more powerful and efficient than a traditional cigalike
  • Using sealed pods, rather than wick-stuffed open cartridges, leaves space for a lot more liquid

So that’s the advantages of a pod mod over cigalikes; how do they compare to the typical devices used by experienced vapers like myself? Well, this is where things get subjective. I like my big, heavy, leaky devices. I spend most of the day at my desk writing articles and blog posts for you, so the fact my mod is stuffed with multiple 18650 batteries and is about the size of a half brick doesn’t bother me at all. All my tanks are a bit dribbly, and my favourite RDTAs tend to dump their entire contents if you tip them too far, but when they’re sitting on my desk that isn’t a problem.

On the other hand, when I actually have to go outside for some reason the e-cig I always reach for is my Vype Pro Tank, which is small, light and never leaks (and it’s sold by a tobacco company, if anyone cares). If I had an even smaller device that was still capable of delivering a decent vape, I’d take that. I’ve actually had some experience of this, thanks to a couple of pod mods I was given to test last year; I wouldn’t use them at home, but for going out and about they’re excellent. Here are some of the leading pod mods:

 

JUUL

JUUL starter kit

The pod mod everybody’s talking about right now (although mostly for the wrong reasons) is the JUUL. This ultra-slim device was only available in the USA and Israel, but it’s now available in the UK and the company, in between arguing with idiots who’re imagining an epidemic of teenage “JUULing”, is planning to roll it out around the rest of the world over the next couple of years.

JUUL is a tiny rectangular device with a USB port at one end, so it can be plugged directly into a laptop to charge. It’s fed on tiny leakproof pods that hold 0.7ml of liquid; the liquid itself is a bit special, and part of the reason for JUUL’s amazing success – it currently makes up 70% of e-cig sales in US convenience stores. Instead of the usual freebase nicotine it contains nicotine salts, which deliver a faster, cigarette-like hit, and it’s also very strong at 5% nicotine (although this has to be cut to 2% for the European market, thanks to the ridiculous EU TPD).

Heat Not Burn UK being all about harm reduction has a sister website that may well start selling the JUUL here  in the UK in the very near future, so watch this space!

MyBlu

MyBlu starter kit

Previously sold as the Von Erl until Fontem Ventures (part of Imperial Tobacco) bought the brand, MyBlu is about the same size as JUUL but has a more rounded shape. It’s also generally more conventional – it uses standard e-liquid at 1.6% concentration.

Mesh

IQOS Mesh

PMI’s Mesh is much larger than the JUUL or MyBlu (so it also has better battery life), but it’s exactly the same concept – you just plug disposable pods onto the end of the battery. I have one of these and it’s very good. It also produces more vapour than the other pod mods, so it might be a better option for anyone who’s used to conventional e-cigs.

iFuse

BAT iFuse

About the same size as the Mesh, BAT’s iFuse is a sort of hybrid – its pods contain a layer of finely shredded tobacco which is supposed to give the vapour a tobacco flavour as it passes through. It’s a great idea, but we’re not sure how well this pod mod actually works.

Pebble

BAT Vype Pebble

BAT’s Pebble is the most unconventional-looking of the pod mods. It’s shaped like the sort of flat stone you’d skip across a pond, and while it looks odd it’s also very comfortable to hold. There’s a nice big battery in there too.

 

So there are already a few pod mods to choose from, but the runaway success of JUUL means we can probably expect to see a lot more options appearing soon, as manufacturers jump on the bandwagon. Overall that’s great news, because pod mods are exactly what a lot of smokers are looking for – a reduced harm option that’s smaller and simpler than a conventional e-cig.