We recently looked at the PAX 2 loose tobacco vaporiser by Ploom. This is a popular device, but the company’s original product used proprietary tobacco cartridges. That technology was bought by Japan Tobacco, who’ve now refined the design and brought out a new model – Ploom TECH.
The original Ploom device, now known as the modelOne, was very different from PAX. It’s a slim unit, powered by butane gas stored in a refillable internal tank. To load it you open the mouthpiece and pop in a small, bullet-shaped foil capsule filled with moistened, finely shredded tobacco or herbal mix. Replacing the mouthpiece pierces a hole in the end of the capsule, which Ploom call a “pod”. When the device was activated a jet of butane-powered flame heated an element, which in turn heated the pod to create a flavoured tobacco vapour you could inhale.
Switching to electric
The modelOne was an interesting concept but the butane power source was problematic – airport security didn’t like it much, for example. Ploom had a rethink and came up with an improved version, the modelTwo, which borrowed heavily from e-cigarette technology. Its looks were cleaned up into a minimalist pen-style design, with a single power button to handle operation. The butane power was gone, replaced by a built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery. The tobacco pod system stayed the same, however; the only difference from a technical point of view was that electricity heated them, not gas.
Last year Ploom, wanting to concentrate on loose leaf vaporisers, sold the pod technology to Japan Tobacco and the modelTwo went on sale in Japan. It looks like JTI haven’t been pausing to congratulate themselves though, because they’ve continued developing the concept. The result is Ploom TECH.
Whatever you think of the big tobacco companies there are advantages in having them involved; Ploom is a successful company, but JTI can summon up a lot more resources when it comes to research and development. Many vapers have a jaundiced view of them because their e-cigarettes are generally poor, but that’s more of an economic issue. If Philip Morris wanted to produce a top quality box mod or sub-ohm tank they could, very easily. On the other hand there’s no reason why they would want to, because it just doesn’t fit their business model. Large companies want consumers to keep coming back for repeat purchases, and that’s not the way top end e-cigarettes work. Buying a box mod is a one-off purchase, and repeat purchases – coils and liquid – are likely to be made from someone else.
That’s the path Ploom are taking with the PAX; they aim to make money on sales of the vaporiser, but once you’ve bought it you can use any pipe tobacco you want in it. Ploom don’t even sell pipe tobacco, so they don’t care what kind you buy. The pod system, on the other hand, is much closer to what the tobacco companies like. Once you buy the device you’ll be regularly buying pods for it, and because they’re a proprietary design you’ll be buying them from the same company. That’s why all the tobacco company Heat not Burn devices are either disposable (like Revo) or use proprietary tobacco refills (iQOS or Ploom TECH).
Of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you like the product you’ll be happy to keep buying refills for it; if you don’t like the product you’ll stick it at the back of a drawer and buy a PAX 2 instead. That gives the companies an incentive to constantly improve their products, because if they don’t their customers will go elsewhere. That doesn’t bother the independents; if you’ve bought a PAX 2 they’re happy, and they don’t much care if you buy something else next week. But if you get fed up with your Ploom TECH you might buy an iQOS instead, and that means they lose out on all your future purchases of refills.
It looks like JTI have paid a lot of attention to feedback on the modelOne and modelTwo. While the Ploom TECH uses the same basic principle as the earlier devices the pod design has been radically updated. Now, as well as finely shredded tobacco, they have a container of liquid – similar to normal e-liquid. It’s this that gets heated and vaporised when you activate the device and take a puff, and if you’ve used an up to date e-cig you’ll know how much vapour can be produced. The difference with Ploom TECH is that the heated vapour then gets drawn through the tobacco, picking up all the subtleties of its flavour and transporting it to the mouthpiece.
The idea behind Ploom TECH seems to combine the best aspects of an e-cigarette and a standard HnB device. By using warm vapour to heat the tobacco instead of direct heat, any remaining risk of burning or harshness should be eliminated; this is likely to give a very smooth vape. It also keeps the advantages of the earlier pod systems – the device is very easy to clean, because used pods can be taken out and disposed of. There’s no contact between the tobacco (or liquid) and the actual heated components, which can be an issue with loose tobacco vaporisers.
JTI plan to launch Ploom TECH in Japan inside the next few weeks. The plan for the release is to offer the device plus three varieties of cartridge for it. These will be branded as “MEVIUS for Ploom TECH” after the popular Mevius cigarette brand (more familiar by its old name of Mild Seven). They’re aiming to roll Ploom TECH out globally though, and each market will get cartridges based on its own favourite cigarette brands.
What’s really exciting about Ploom TECH is that it’s not just a rework of the earlier devices; with its liquid-filled cartridges it’s bringing something new to the party, and early reviews seem positive. Hopefully this new system will be available globally soon, because there’s never any harm in having more alternatives to smoking.