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BAT invests a billion dollars in Romanian HnB factory

HnB Factory

There’s been a lot of talk recently from opponents of Heat not Burn – including, regrettably, some of the less intelligent vape reviewers – about how the technology has already peaked. Growth has slowed, they say; fewer smokers are switching to HnB, and the market is already saturated. It’s true that iQOS sales in Japan have slowed over the last quarter, but does this mean the great heated tobacco experiment is fizzling out?

Well, I’m not convinced. Has iQOS reached market saturation in Japan? It might have done. That wouldn’t really be a huge surprise. After all, iQOS is the first generation of HnB that’s really gone mass market. Maybe all the Japanese smokers who feel like switching have done so already, and sales are going to fall back to existing users replacing their devices. This happens when a new product disrupts an existing market.

What’s the good news?

Japan isn’t the only market for HnB, though – not by a long way. iQOS, the most widely available product, is now on sale in most of Europe as well as in Asia, but it hasn’t hit the huge US market yet. It’s still going through FDA approval, but if it gets there (and it probably will) millions more smokers are likely to switch. Then there’s Glo, which so far is only available in selected countries. Maybe KT&G will release their Lil outside South Korea – and I hope they do, because I have one on my desk right now and it’s excellent.

Then, of course, there’s the technology itself to consider. HnB has been around since the 1990s at least, but iQOS, Glo and Lil are the first generation of really effective devices. Compare that with e-cigarettes for a moment. The first really effective, widely available e-cig was probably the JoyeTech eGo. Now compare an eGo with today’s entry-level devices. There’s a bit of a difference, isn’t there? Well, iQOS and Glo are the eGo of heated tobacco.

Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and others are all working to improve and refine the technology that’s gone into their existing HnB systems. Over the next few years we can expect to see improved versions appearing – devices that will be even easier to use, come even closer to the experience of smoking a cigarette, and reduce the harm even more. A lot of smokers who weren’t quite convinced by the first generation of products will decide to switch once something even better is on the market.

Again, this is exactly what we saw with vaping. I found my first e-cig on a market stall in Kabul. It was an old-style three piece cigalike, and it was bloody awful. There was no way a device like that was going to replace my smoking habit, which seeing as 200 Marlboro cost a whole $10 in the PX was pretty heavy. On the other hand it did work just fine to keep nicotine deprivation at bay on my regular seven-hour flights home, so it was enough to keep e-cigs in my mind. Later, when I decided I really had to quit smoking, I found an eGo-C kit and that was actually good enough to do the job. What I’m using now, of course, blows an eGo – or a Marlboro, for that matter – right out of the water.

Growth to come

Anyway, I don’t think the market for Heat not Burn products has peaked, or even come close to its full potential. And, it seems, neither do British American Tobacco. I can say that pretty confidently, because BAT have just announced that they plan to spend a billion dollars upgrading one of their factories and turning it into their European centre for HnB manufacturing.

Romania was the first European market for Glo – and also an early one for iQOS – and BAT already have an established manufacturing capability there. The company’s market share in Romania is around 55%, and to support that they have a large factory at Ploiești. This is the factory that’s going to benefit from that billion-dollar investment over the next five years.

BAT’s plan is to roll Glo out across more European countries in the second half of this year, and to do that they need a reliable supply of Neostiks – ideally a supply that doesn’t involve shipping them from Asia. The plan is for Ploiești to become the sole European manufacturing and supply centre for Neostiks. The plant already supplies the European market with pods for the iFuse hybrid device, so it looks set to become a major centre for BAT’s reduced-harm products.

A bright future

If BAT weren’t anticipating strong sales of Glo in Europe, they’d be very unlikely to spend €800,000,000 on the infrastructure to support those sales. Clearly they’re confident, and I think they’re right to be. Glo will suit a lot of smokers who just didn’t get on with iQOS. Personally I think iQOS comes closer to the taste and sensation of a cigarette, but that has to be balanced against Glo’s huge battery capacity. Both devices have their strong points and I think Glo is going to do well as it hits new markets.

I’m not the only one who thinks that, either. The Times made BAT last week’s Share of the Week, citing the company’s investment in reduced harm products as a likely source of future growth. PMI might have seen their profit growth slow along with iQOS sales in Japan, but investors can obviously see a big market waiting to be tapped into.

Meanwhile, BAT’s Ploiești factory is going to get an extra 7,000 square metres of manufacturing space and plans to take on an extra 200 people to work on the new production line. PMI are also expanding in Romania, spending over $500 million to convert a cigarette factory near Bucharest into a HEET factory. I don’t expect these to be the last HnB projects launched in Europe.

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There’s a new HnB study – and you should ignore it

new HnB study

I’ve been involved in e-cig advocacy for years, so I’ve seen some truly awful studies. It takes a lot to surprise me these days because I’ve seen it all: Badly conducted experiments, tortured statistics, misrepresented data and straight-out bad science. It isn’t often I find myself shaking my head at just how crap something is, but step forward anyway South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, because you’ve achieved it.

After Japan, South Korea is one of the biggest markets in the world for Heat not Burn products. For South Koreans, conventional vaping is just a niche hobby; if you want to quit smoking you go with HnB. The country is also one of the most varied markets. As well as the now-familiar iQOS and BAT’s newer Glo, there’s an indigenous competitor, too – the Lil from Korean Tobacco and Ginseng. We’re still waiting for KT&G to send us a Lil, by the way, but when they do you’ll be the first to know what it’s like.

UPDATE: We now have the Lil! Expect a review on this website in the very near future.

Anyway, lots of South Koreans like HnB. All three products are selling well despite recent tax rises on the tobacco sticks for them, and smokers seem to be switching in pretty large numbers. So, as you’d expect, people who make a living telling smokers to quit are getting annoyed that the tobacco industry is doing their job better than they can.

So the knives are out for HnB in South Korea, and the Ministry of Food and Drugs just decided to have another go. This time their weapon of choice is an “independent” report by a group of Korean researchers that claims HnB isn’t less dangerous than smoking. At this point I’m going to stick in a disclaimer and say that there’s no formal evidence that it is less dangerous than smoking. That’s going to take decades of research and data collection, and with the products being so new we obviously don’t have that yet. What we do know is that, according to absolutely everything we understand about toxicology, it would be very surprising indeed if they weren’t significantly safer.

The shocking details

So what does this report say? Well, nothing good. It’s basically a toxicological analysis of the sticks for all three of the devices on the market. The media aren’t reporting any details of the study – such as the methods it used or even who conducted it – so there’s no way to tell what sort of science is behind this, but going by the results it’s extremely poor.

The headline conclusion is that HnB is no safer than smoking because it has nasty chemicals in it. This is in fact true; HnB sticks – and the vapour they produce – do have nasty chemicals in them. The problem is that, while true, this isn’t actually very informative. As any toxicologist will happily tell you, almost everything has nasty chemicals in it. If the mere presence of nasty chemicals was actually a problem, none of us would live long enough to be born.

What matters is how much of those chemicals is present. This is often expressed as “The dose makes the poison,” and it isn’t exactly a radical new concept that the “independent researchers” weren’t aware of yet – it goes back to Paracelsus, and he died in 1541. Some public health activists might claim there’s “no safe level” of whatever they’re attacking this week – second-hand smoke, alcohol, sugar – but they’re talking rubbish. The fact is that there’s a safe level of anything – arsenic, cyanide, even plutonium. That safe level might be extremely low, but it does exist. No matter how toxic or carcinogenic something is, there’s a level below which it just isn’t going to do you any harm.

Obviously, if it’s above that level there is potential for harm, but it isn’t a simple harm/no harm binary. If you swallow slightly above the safe level of arsenic you might feel a bit ill, but you’re not going to die. Similarly, if you inhale slightly above the safe level of some of the chemicals in cigarette smoke your risk of some cancers may rise slightly, but it’s not going to skyrocket like it would if you were firing up 20 Bensons every day.

And the authors of this shoddy study totally ignore that fact. They accurately picked up on the fact that HnB tobacco contains some of the same carcinogens as any other tobacco, but they totally ignored the relative concentrations in the vapour – and that is the only thing that matters. If they’d done their job properly they would have analysed the relative quantities and estimated a relative risk for that; instead they just found some nasty stuff and said “Yep, just as bad!” Sorry, but there’s no excuse for that – and their own data blows their argument to bits.

According to the report, analysis of HnB tobacco sticks found that they contained “up to five” human carcinogens. Just to put that into perspective, cigarette smoke contains at least 33 and even a humble carrot has over a dozen. If this report shows anything it’s that using an HnB device is, at least in terms of cancer risks, about as dangerous as eating salad.

Grasping at straws

The team also looked at two other components of both smoke and vapour – nicotine and tar. This is where they really lost contact with reality. They claimed that two of the products they tested produced more tar than an actual cigarette. This is where I would really like to know how they carried out the experiment, because in normal use there is just no way this is true. Tar is a mixture of combustion products, produced when tobacco burns – and HnB devices don’t burn the tobacco. It’s easy to see this by comparing the filters of a used Heet and a smoked cigarette; it’s tar that turns cigarette filters brown.

As for nicotine, their complaint about that was that all three products contained as much nicotine as a cigarette. Yes, they do. They’re supposed to, because if they don’t the devices won’t do what they’re supposed to do – give smokers an acceptable alternative to cigarettes. Any alternative to smoking depends on delivering enough nicotine that smokers are satisfied and don’t reach for a cigarette to deal with their cravings. Basically, the study is criticising HnB for being fit for purpose.

So does this study raise serious concerns about the risks of heated tobacco? Well, I think you can already guess what I’m going to say about that, can’t you? No, of course it doesn’t. It’s picking up on something that we already knew – that HnB vapour does contain some carcinogenic substances, although fewer of them and at lower levels than smoke does. It’s a reduced harm product, after all. The whole point is that, even if the harm isn’t totally eliminated, it’s much lower than continuing to smoke. That’s what basic toxicology tells us – and any study that conflicts with basic principles of science is wrong.

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Heat not Burn news roundup – May 2018

heat not burn news

As you’ve probably guessed, the team at Heat not Burn UK take a keen interest in anything related to heated tobacco products, so we’re always watching the news to see if anyone’s saying anything we think you should know about. Sometimes we find a big story, and we’ll always let you know about that right away. Other times we just feel like giving you an update on what’s happening.

This week we couldn’t find any big stories to tell you about, so we’ve put together a few of the more interesting smaller ones. We think this is a good way to stay up to date on what’s happening, as well as warning of any threats that might be approaching. We can take it for granted that there will be threats; any vaper knows how vindictive the tobacco control industry can be. This week we’ve picked up one story about health warnings on HnB products, for example.

It’s not all bad news though. There’s some more good news in New Zealand’s bizarre iQOS court case, plus a study from Russia that looks very positive on the health front. Interesting times certainly lie ahead for HnB, but right now we’re feeling pretty optimistic about it all.

 

New Zealand gives up on Heet ban

One of the most positive HnB stories in April was the defeat of the New Zealand health ministry’s legal bid to ban Heets. Last May the ministry, for some bizarre reason, launched a court case against Philip Morris; their argument was that Heets fell under New Zealand’s ban on chewing tobacco, although they’re not actually supposed to be chewed.

It’s not clear why the ministry decided to do this; the case was brought under a 1990 law banning any tobacco product “described as suitable for chewing or any oral use other than smoking”. The law was specifically aimed at chewing tobacco, which carries a risk of oral cancer and sparked a series of health scares in the late 1980s and early 90s; no product like Heets was on the market at the time. However, the ministry came up with an eccentric interpretation of the law that would have banned Heets.

Luckily, Wellington District Court disagreed and threw the case out. They weren’t subtle about it either – the court basically told the ministry that what they were doing was the opposite of what the law was supposed to achieve. Of course, the ministry still had the option of appealing to a higher court.

This week’s good news is that they’ve decided not to do that. It seems that they’ve realised just how weak their legal position was, and backed down rather than face another defeat. This means Heets will stay legal in New Zealand, which is good news for the country’s smokers.

 

South Korea does something silly

South Korea has played a big part in the growth of HnB – after Japan, it’s one of the countries that has adopted the technology most enthusiastically, and BAT chose it as an early test market for their Glo. There’s also at least one indigenous Korean product, KT&G’s Lil /which we’re trying to get a hold of for a review). So at first glance it’s all looking pretty positive – but there seem to be political problems on the horizon.

Seoul’s Ministry of Health and Welfare has just announced that, from now on, HnB products will have to carry graphic health warnings in the packaging. These are the gory pictures that many countries already require on cigarette packets; now South Korea wants them on reduced-harm products too.

In fact graphic warnings were already required in South Korea, but some activists have complained that the image – a needle, representing drug addiction – was unclear. The new ones will show tumours. The ministry’s aim, unfortunately is to spread the message that HnB isn’t safer than smoking – despite all the evidence showing that it is.

 

PMI credits iQOS for growth

Philip Morris International announced a 9,4% revenue growth for 2017, and said this was down to demand for their iQOS device and the Heets it uses. According to CEO André Calantzopoulos the company’s HnB sales are projected to double in 2018. This is a positive sign for PMI’s ambition to establish itself as a leader in HnB, and gain an advantage over its competitors.

There are no guarantees,, though, and PMI shares fell by 17.5% in April following disappointing iQOS sales figures. Some people have interpreted this as a sign that the HnB bubble is already deflating: others aren’t so sure. So far Japan has accounted for the bulk of iQOS sales, and it’s possible that market is saturated for now – most of the smokers who want to switch could already have done so. If that’s the case there’s still a lot of potential for iQOS to sell well in other countries.

 

Science stacks up

HnB hasn’t been studied anywhere near as much as either vaping or smoking, but evidence of its safety is starting to build up. Anti-nicotine activists attacked the first studies because, although they were carried out by independent labs, they were funded by tobacco companies – a classic case of playing the man, not the ball. However, now there’s a new study that can’t be dismissed so easily.

Many governments are interested in the health risks of new tobacco products, and Russia is no exception. A few months ago Moscow seems to have asked a group of researchers to investigate, and their paper was released on the 7th of May. The results make encouraging reading.

The Russian team, from Kazan University, tested the urine of smokers, HnB users and never-smokers. What they found was that, in every case, levels of various toxins in the HnB users were comparable to what they found in the non-smokers – and much lower than in smokers. At the same time they found similar nicotine levels between HnB users and smokers. This backs up the existing evidence that HnB is an effective way of using nicotine that also eliminates most of the risks of smoking.

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Public health, e-cigs and heat not burn. Why all the hatred?

Public health

Keep smoking we need the money.

We have been monitoring the entire public health movement since 2015 and we have decided to impart our thoughts on what we think about the cult of public health.

Firstly it is fairly obvious that public health stop-smoking groups do not want people to stop smoking, because if everyone stopped smoking they would all be out of a job. But it is much more complex than that. Public health have to be *seen* actively trying to get people to stop smoking so that they can continue to get rewarded with enormous grants, usual funded by public money.

Until e-cigarettes came along the options on the market were truly dire, it mainly consisted of patches, gums and tablets. The patches and gums were truly woeful with around a 6% success rate. The tablets were more successful but had some shocking side effects including suicidal thoughts, leading to some people actually committing suicide. The classic scenario was the old “quit, relapse, quit, relapse” cycle with the patches and gums, people would try to quit using them then fail and go back to smoking for a while, then try again and fail again with the patches and gums, and so the dreadful cycle continued. Public health groups like the UK’s ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) wasted millions of pounds of public money for nothing, the smoking rate remained stubborn and refused to move…..then along came e-cigarettes and much more recently heat not burn.

By crikey these work!

The main reason that e-cigs and HnB work is because they both mimic the action of smoking perfectly, this is the reason they have been phenomenally successful, to be honest they are both brilliant inventions and in just a few short years we have seen the smoking rate start to fall after years of flat-lining. The smoking ban of 2007 we were told would vastly reduce the smoking rates, the smoking rate barely moved in the UK the preceding years. All the smoking ban did was shut down thousands of pubs and bingo halls, decimating communities and pit smokers against non-smokers, and generally make smokers feel like social pariahs.

E-cigs and heat not burn have really put the cat among the pigeons for the public health racket though, in the case of e-cigarettes it has basically been a grass roots movement and thousands have managed to quit smoking without any help from either the government or public health. It hasn’t cost the government a penny either, people are actually buying the equipment out of THEIR OWN MONEY. Even though they can get a prescription for traditional NRT such as the patches and gums for free, they don’t bother, they actually pay for e-cigarettes and heat not burn devices out of their own money. How can that be? Are these people crazy? They’re not crazy at all, the reason they are paying for e-cigarettes and heat not burn devices is because THEY WORK. It really is as simple as that. Not everyone will get on with e-cigs, some prefer the actual taste of the smoke that they’re used to and that is where heat not burn comes in. That is why there is a market for both e-cigarettes and heat not burn devices and why both will thrive despite all the fake news and cherry picked studies.

“Not enough evidence”/”We don’t know what’s in them” etc. etc.

So, back to public health, what do they do about these new modern devices? At first there was a kind of twitchy knee-jerk reaction and they immediately condemned them, seeing the possibility of hundreds of thousands of pounds of grant money going down the drain. It would have been a massive shock to them to see e-cigs doing what their NRT had manifestly failed to do for years (decades?) and that was to get people to actually stop smoking. First of all there was the old “we need more evidence” line, naturally as each year goes by with nobody dropping dead from vaping that argument weakens pretty quickly. You will still hear some of the more crazy people in public health trotting that line out in 2018 even though some early adopters have been vaping now for over 10 years. Another classic line trotted out is the famous “we don’t know what’s in them” with regards to the e-liquid, even though all e-liquid bottles are now required to list the ingredients.

The manufactured diacetyl scare.

They absolutely love to mention the study that found some diacetyl in certain e-liquids even though most e-liquids have completely removed diacetyl from their e-liquids and the amount of diacetyl found in the e-liquid was FAR LOWER than the diacetyl levels found in traditional cigarettes. These crackpots will clutch onto any straw that they can find. Diacetyl is thought to be responsible for a disease called “popcorn lung” a disease that popcorn factory workers used to get from years of breathing in the dust of this flavouring agent. It is also worth noting that there have been no cases of popcorn lung directly attributed to regular cigarette smokers, let alone vapers. This was another manufactured scare story bought to you by people that absolutely hate e-cigarettes.

Among many reasons that public health hate e-cigarettes is because public health didn’t invent them, if public health did invent them then they would be the best thing since sliced bread. The same goes for heat not burn, but heat not burn is even worse because they are primarily an invention of those EVIL BIG TOBACCO COMPANY BASTARDS.

Now we are seeing some public health orgs actually getting behind vaping, there’s a good chance that they are doing this so that they can take some credit for the drop in the smoking rate in the last couple of years. It’s very cheeky and dishonest but that’s what modern day public health do. They will do anything and everything that is required to keep the grant money rolling in.

How’s that MSA looking?

We have primarily been talking about UK public health organisations but over in the USA the rise of e-cigarettes and heat not burn are even more acute. There is something called the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) where tobacco companies have done a deal with individual US states. It’s basically a massive bribe whereby the state allows tobacco products to be sold so long as the tobacco companies pay that particular state vast amounts of money. Now e-cigs and heat not burn are starting to affect the MSA future projections because the payments are calculated in advance on projected cigarette sales, the more people that stop smoking traditional cigarettes the worse it is for those cosy MSA deals. This is why e-cigs are under constant attack in the USA including a de-facto ban by 2022 unless things change markedly. Heat Not Burn is currently going through a similar struggle, this is all part of the plan. Basically the “wrong” people are making money out of e-cigarettes and heat not burn.

There are going to be some massive battles ahead that much we can be sure of, but at the end of the day it always boils down to one thing and one thing only: money.

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EFOS E1 Review

EFOS E1

A few weeks ago we looked at the iBuddy i1, a new Heat not Burn device from China that uses the same Heets as Philip Morris’s iQOS. At the time I thought this was a sensible decision for iBuddy, as it saved them having to develop and distribute their own stick design. I also didn’t think PMI would mind too much; they might miss out on a few iQOS sales, but everyone who buys an iBuddy will need to get Heets for it, and PMI are the only people who sell them.

More recently I was sent another Chinese device that’s also designed to work with Heets; this is the EFOS E1, and I’ve spent the last week running several packs of Heets through it. How did it compare to the iBuddy and iQOS? That’s what I wanted to find out – and now I know.

 

Unboxing

The EFOS is, as I’ve come to expect, nicely packaged. The box has an outer sleeve, and once that’s been slid off the top flap hinges open to reveal the device sitting in the usual moulded plastic tray. That lifts out to reveal an instruction manual and, under it, another tray containing a USB cable and a cloth carrying bag for the device. It’s all nicely presented and gives the feel of a quality product.

The quality of the device itself isn’t bad either. The body is plastic, lozenge-shaped and fits nicely in the hand. On each long edge is a black plastic insert; one has four LEDs to show the charge status, and the other is helpfully printed with some basic information about the E1, including its battery capacity – 2,000mAh, in case you’re interested.

At the top you’ll find the only controls – a large button with an illuminated surround, and a sliding cover that can be pushed up to reveal the heating chamber. The heating chamber is interesting; instead of the iQOS’s blade, or the spike of the iBuddy, this is simply a metal chamber with perforated walls and base. It’s also set at an angle. When a Heet is inserted it’s sticking up about 30 degrees off the vertical, which looks a little surprising at first.

Overall the EFOS feels well put together for the $60 price. It is mostly plastic, but it seems robust enough and I didn’t manage to break anything while getting through four packs of Heets. The supplied accessories are good quality too, but it’s a pity no cleaning equipment was supplied – to keep it running properly, it’s probably a good idea to clean the heating chamber at least once in every pack of Heets.

 

Trying it out

My EFOS arrived with the battery about half charged, so the first thing I did was plug it in and top it up. This took a pleasantly short amount of time – just over an hour passed before all four LEDs were glowing steadily. Once that was done I opened a pack of Heets, loaded one into the chamber and then, after some initial embarrassment, flicked through the instruction leaflet to figure out how it works.

The other HnB devices I’ve tried so far are switched on by holding the button until it buzzes or flashes at you. The EFOS is slightly different; it takes three rapid presses to activate it. Once you’ve done that it will buzz and vibrate slightly, and the green LED surround of the button begins flashing. Then all you have to do is wait for it to heat up.

Waiting is never my favourite pastime, and I have to admit I was getting a little impatient by the time 30 seconds had passed. It vibrated again not long after that, though, and I took that as a signal that it was ready to use (which it was). So I took a puff, and it was a bit of a surprise.

Firstly I should say that the angled heating chamber is a great idea; it puts the Heet’s filter in a very natural position to vape. Next, the first puff I took was the best I’ve had from any HnB device I’ve tried so far. It was almost exactly like smoking a cigarette, with plenty of warm, well-flavoured vapour. It continued well for about the next eight or nine puffs, and then both flavour and vapour started to fall off sharply. The device will let you take up to 20 puffs from each Heet, vibrating again to warn you after the 18th; if you’re puffing slowly it will vibrate after five and a half minutes, and shut down in just under six. Personally, I think it would be better to limit it to ten or twelve puffs; 20 is just too much for a Heet.

This is just a minor issue, though. A bigger problem might be that the EFOS itself is too much for a Heet. When I took the first one out the chamber and looked at the end I was startled at how black the filling was. On closer examination this didn’t extend all the way up through the rolled tobacco sheet, but the tip of it – where it’s in contact with the heated base of the chamber – was pretty charred. I got a definite impression that the EFOS was great at the “Heat” part, but falling down slightly on the “not Burn” bit.

Some more flicking through the instruction manual revealed that it actually has two temperature modes, and I was running it in the (recommended) high temperature one. I changed to low temperature for a few Heets, by holding the button for three seconds while I waited for it to heat up, but found that performance fell off quite a lot. I did get more puffs from each Heet, but they much less satisfying.

 

Conclusion

The EFOS E1 is a very interesting device, and on high temperature mode it gives a great tobacco vape. Battery life is reasonable but not great; you’ll probably need to top it up after about ten Heets, and unlike iQOS it doesn’t come with a personal charger. The iBuddy i1, despite having a smaller battery capacity (1,800mAh) kept going for much longer between charges.

My real concern with the EFOS, however, is that I have a nasty suspicion the high temperature mode is burning some of the tobacco. That would certainly explain the great flavour, but it might defeat the purpose of using it in the first place. I still doubt it’s anywhere near as harmful as a lit cigarette, but if health is your top priority you might be tempted to go for an iQOS instead.

The end of this Heet looks suspiciously blackened…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wikipedia – encyclopaedic or idiotic?

Wikipedia

Everyone’s familiar with Wikipedia – “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? A vast, sprawling reference work that everyone in the world can add their knowledge to, with administrators and fact-checking mechanisms to make sure nobody’s contaminating it with nonsense. In theory at least, it should end up containing all the open-source information in the world and be constantly checked for accuracy by thousands of dedicated users.

The trouble is that’s not exactly how it works. If the topic of an article isn’t controversial, Wikipedia is generally pretty reliable. Apart from the odd intentional vandalism or clumsy editing by a well-meaning newcomer, both of which usually get removed pretty quickly, articles about places, objects or anything else straightforward tend to be accurate and informative. I do research every day and I regularly use Wikipedia; the articles themselves give a good overview, and there’s a handy list of references at the bottom so you can dig deeper and verify facts.

Where it gets complicated is when you start dealing with any subject that’s at all controversial. That’s when special interests slither out of the woodwork, whether it’s creationists, IRA supporters or political extremists, and start gaming Wikipedia’s tortuous rules to push their point of view.

The whole idea of Wikipedia is that everyone can edit, but in practice that’s not how it works. Apart from a few basic principles the rules for resolving disagreements are made by committee, and we all know the sort of person who likes to join unpaid committees. Unsurprisingly there’s now a mass of rules, guidelines, essays and procedures that would take a lifetime to read, so of course nobody reads them. That means nobody understands them except a hard core of dedicated fanatics, and this brings us neatly to the subject of tobacco harm reduction.

Meet the Medics

I used to be a pretty active Wikipedia editor, until I got banned a couple of years ago. Officially I got banned because I was paid to edit an article, but this isn’t actually against Wikipedia’s rules. The real reason was that I upset the key people in Wikiproject Medicine, a group that’s supposedly responsible for ensuring the accuracy of medical articles on Wikipedia. Because e-cigarettes can potentially have an impact on health, WikiMed has ruled that any articles on them have to obey the stringent rules they’ve created for medical content, and who gets to decide whether they obey those rules or not? Wikiproject Medicine, of course!

This is where the problems begin, because all the leading figures in WikiMed are fanatical opponents of tobacco harm reduction. The project is led by “Doc James” – Dr James Heilman – a socially inept GP from the wilds of rural Canada. Heilman is notable for his poor grasp of logic, even poorer grasp of the English language and a stubborn inability to admit that he might ever be wrong about anything. We’re talking about a guy who thought “A cup of coffee is drug” was a winning argument. Heilman is a complete idiot.

And, like any complete idiot who finds himself in charge of a committee, he’s assembled a collection of even worse idiots to help him out. There’s a Norwegian medical student who can’t spell “cigarette” – I am not making this up – and a few other people who’ve only escaped having personality disorders because they don’t have personalities. However the worst of the lot, by a long way, is the individual known as QuackGuru.

I don’t know what, if any, medical expertise QuackGuru has. He seems to have started on Wikipedia as an opponent of “alternative medicines,” an objective that I’m fine with, but somewhere along the way he became Doc James’s most devoted follower and, just to round off his uselessness, an anti-vaping zealot. On top of that he’s terrible at actually editing. His logic and English are both even worse than Heilman’s, and he has a maddening habit of just repeating the same obviously wrong statements over and over again. He also violates Wikipedia’s rules with monotonous regularity, and although he does get the occasional short suspension – usually just from specific topics – Heilman’s influence has protected him from the permanent ban he richly deserves.

A couple of years ago, until I was banned, I and a few others fought a long battle against the WikiMed clique to try to add some semblance of reality to the article on electronic cigarettes. This is unrelentingly negative; at one point a single paper by notorious Californian aircraft mechanic Stanton Glantz was referenced more than all the other sources put together. QuackGuru was a major source of the problems on the page, blindly applying simplistic definitions of Wiki rules to exclude any references that were positive about vaping. In the end even Heilman couldn’t protect him anymore, and he was banned from editing the page for a few months, but by that time most of the pro-vaping editors had been banned or given up in disgust.

Now it’s all happening again at the Heat not Burn page. Nobody in their right mind would say that an iQOS is a medical device, but WikiMed have claimed authority over it on the basis that it can have health effects. Well, so can a bunch of other things WikiMed doesn’t bother with – guns, for example, or cars. Both of these kill a lot more people every year than HnB ever will, but for some reason they’re not seen as medical subjects. Vaping and HnB are still just about niche enough that Heilman and his little bunch of cranks can take over, though, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Looking at the edit history for the HnB page, two names dominate the list – Doc James and, even more so, QuackGuru. For example, on 2 February there were eight edits made to the page; one by Doc James, one by a bot and six by Quack. Out of the last 50 edits, Quack as made 21 – often in rapid strings of minor edits, aimed at correcting the one before but actually making things worse with every attempt.

The Idiots’ Playground

About the only good thing about Quack’s atrocious sentence structure is that it obscures some of the terrible information in the article itself. The lead section says “There is no reliable evidence that (HnB) products are any less harmful than other cigarettes,” so I was already boiling with rage by the second line of the article – because HnB products are not cigarettes (got that yet, Vic?).

The first section in the body of the article is called “Health Effects”, and in the best WikiMed tradition it starts with an ad hominem smear attack on anyone who disagrees with Doc James – “Claims of lowered risk or health benefits for heat-not-burn tobacco products are based on industry-funded research”. Well so what? Why does it matter who funded the research? What matters is that it’s been peer-reviewed (it has) and the experimental methods and analysis have been found to be reliable (they are). Every medicine on the shelf at your local chemist’s was certified as safe thanks to “industry-funded research”, but you never hear anyone complaining about that.

Moving on, another of Quack’s trademarks starts to show up – his touching belief that “a scientist stated” is the same thing as evidence. It doesn’t matter what some Spanish doctor believes; what matters is what the research shows, and all the research on Heat not Burn shows that users are exposed to vastly lower levels of toxic substances. The first rule of toxicology is “the dose makes the poison”, so reduced exposure to toxins means less risk of harm.

The final section is titled “Regulation”, but as there are few regulations in place for HnB yet WikiMed have padded it with quotes from anti-harm reduction extremists. They even shoehorned in Stan Glantz’s lunatic suggestion that safer tobacco products be banned until tobacco companies stopped selling actual cigarettes. It seems none of these idiots have learned the lessons of Prohibition and what happens when you ban something a significant percentage of your population enjoys. As for Glantz himself, the suggestion that the safer products should be banned has to raise serious questions about his mental health.

 

Wikipedia can be a great resource, but it’s also a flawed one. The way it’s run creates immense problems for anyone who disagrees with the self-appointed cliques that dominate many areas of the site. Unfortunately tobacco harm reduction is one of those areas, so the world’s most popular encyclopaedia is also one of its most dangerous sources of anti-THR propaganda.

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Meet the JUUL menace

JUUL

Here at Heat not Burn UK we’re always interested in new reduced-harm tobacco products. As you’d expect we’re most interested in HnB devices, but we’re more than happy to have a look at anything else that comes on the market. One gadget we’ve wanted to take a look at for a while (but can’t, because it’s illegal in the EU) is JUUL, an ultra-compact e-cigarette that’s taken a huge share of the US market.

You might have heard of JUUL; it’s certainly been in the news enough recently. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a very small and sleek e-cigarette that uses unique disposable pods. The pods don’t contain standard e-liquid; instead the juice is based on nicotine salts extracted from leaf tobacco. This is supposed to give a fast nicotine hit that’s more like a cigarette than a normal e-cig. It also has a 56mg/ml nicotine content, which is why we can’t get them in the EU.

The JUUL device is tiny, slim and rectangular; the pods snap into one end and then all you have to do is take a puff. It has an automatic switch that fires the coil every time you inhale, giving an experience that’s as close to a cigarette as you can get electronically. Each pod has about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and is designed to deliver 200 puffs, and the battery can be easily topped up with a USB charger.

So the JUUL is a pretty interesting little device, and it’s already picked up a hefty share of the US market – close to half of all e-cigs sold through convenience stores. That’s potentially a lot of smokers switching to a much safer alternative, so you’d expect the public health community to give it at least a cautious thumbs up, wouldn’t you? Oh wait; of course not. We all know not to expect much in the way of sense from public health types.

JUULmania

I’m not going to say that anti-JUUL hysteria has reached the level of the “Satanic Panic” in the 1980s, a frenzy of moral outrage about Satanic ritual abuse that saw dozens of nursery owners and employees arrested on suspicion of ritually sacrificing the children who had been entrusted to their care. It’s heading in that direction fast, though. There are daily articles from the USA, and they all follow a very similar – and totally ridiculous – theme.

According to the media, “Juuling” is an epidemic of nicotine use that’s threatening to turn the youth of America into addicts, zombies and probably communists. Schools are panicking at the thought of their students sneaking a puff in class, and nobody’s stopping to look at the actual evidence.

The panic seems to be caused by the design of the device itself. It’s very small, which the media usually translate into “easily hidden,” and thanks to its low power/high nicotine delivery mode, it doesn’t produce a lot of visible vapour. Although I’ve never tried one it seems like it would be the perfect stealth device, so I suppose it would be possible for kids to have a sly drag in class. What I’m not so sure about is why this is somehow worse than them smoking a crumpled Lambert & Butler behind the bike sheds at lunchtime.

What is JUUL anyway?

In any article on JUUL it’s obligatory to mention that “it looks like a USB stick”. It doesn’t, really; it’s longer and slimmer, and has a mouthpiece at one end – USB sticks don’t tend to have those, in my fairly broad experience of the things. Still, it’s small and oblong, so that’s close enough for the media and their public health puppet masters. Cue much hilarity.

In a classic case of over-reaction, one school district in Pennsylvania has banned real USB sticks from all its schools, apparently believing that this will stop students using an e-cig that vaguely resembles one. Officials from the district were falling over themselves to talk about how important this move was in preventing the JUUL epidemic; fortunately one maverick journalist asked them how many students in the district had actually been caught using a JUUL.

One.

That’s right; the school brought in a totally disproportionate ban, and splashed the story all over the media, because they caught one student with a JUUL. I’d say this was ridiculous, if it wasn’t pathetic. Or maybe it’s both. The point is, hardly any US high school students are using JUUL. Far more are using normal e-cigs, mostly basic vape pens, and almost all teens who vape are former smokers!

 

First do no harm

The whole point these clowns are missing with their moral panic is that the product they’re panicking about was specifically designed to help people who already smoke to move to a safer alternative. They should be grateful for this; thanks to JUUL and other e-cigs, teen smoking in the USA is at its lowest rate in a century. Kids who weren’t attracted to smoking aren’t going to be attracted to vaping, either: they’re not going to buy a JUUL. The target market is adults who smoke, and it’s worth pointing out that any kids who do get their hands on a JUUL are violating the company’s strict prohibition on sales to under-21s.

What worries us at Heat not Burn UK is that the same panic that’s grown up around JUUL is likely to spread to products like iQOS when the FDA finally gets round to allowing them onto the US market. I can predict the headlines already; they’re going to focus on the fact that all the leading HnB devices are produced by tobacco companies, and throw in some wild speculation about students putting spliffs in them instead of Heets (a few articles about JUUL claimed students were mixing drugs into the liquid, despite the pod design making this impossible).

I fully support people’s right to smoke if they want to, but there’s no denying that it isn’t the healthiest habit. Smokers should have a choice of safer and effective recreational nicotine products to move to if they choose. JUUL is one of those products; iQOS, Glo and the iBuddy are others. If harm reduction advocates start supporting some products but not others, instead of combining forces against the common enemy, we’ll be picked off one by one.

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XMAX Vital- Cheapest gateway to HnB

Xmax Vital

XMAX VITAL

One of the best and one of the cheapest.

Even though we specialize in and sell the Philip Morris iQOS we are essentially a global heat not burn resource so we will also review other heat not burn products too, so on to the review.

When you buy a loose leaf vapouriser it’s very easy to fall into the trap marked ‘PAY MORE, GET MORE’. Though you often discover the rule that scientists have known for years. It’s called the law of diminishing returns.

Explained in simple terms, let us assume that you need a wristwatch. Well, you can go to Poundland and buy a perfectly functional watch for £1.00, or you can go to Geneva and buy a Hublot Big Bang Ayrton Senna Foudroyante for £25,000.00.

The point is that both watches will tell the time. Beyond that, it’s all downhill for the Hublot. The law of diminishing returns kicks in the minute you bore the arse off everyone by demonstrating how the Hublot can calculate F1 lap times to 100th of a second.

Anyway, I digress. So let’s get back to the review of the XMAX VITAL. This is an old piece of kit, first released in 2015. I bought mine in January 2017 for 35 euros. My usual HnB kits are the IQOS and a PAX2. I didn’t get around to opening the XMAX until January this year.

The XMAX comes in a metallic grey box. When you open the box you get your first view of the vapouriser. Below that is another section of the box which contains

  • The instruction manual
  • Replacement metal mesh screens
  • O ring seals
  • A cleaning brush
  • A micro USB cable and a pair of tweezers

Like a true man, I immediately threw the instruction manual in the bin and set about fetching the thing apart. This was easy. The whole of the insides are held together with 4 Philips head screws. And here’s where it got interesting.

First thing I noticed was the battery. A standard 18650 rated at 3.7V 2600mah battery is more than enough for almost 2 hours solid vaping at full charge and at 240˚C/464˚ F. Impressive for its time.

The Second thing is the size of the ceramic bowl. 1.6cm deep and 1.1cm wide. That’s a hefty load of tobacco. The air feed is from shark gill openings on each side of the vaporiser and then fed into the bottom of the bowl. All of the electronics are in a separate compartment. I will explain why this is so important at the end of this article.

Heat is via a heating element built into the ceramic bowl. This arrangement practically rules out the possibility of electronic shorts ruining your new toy. Very clever.

To start heating, you hold down the power button for 3 seconds and the OLED screen says ‘WELCOME’. It then starts to heat the bowl to the desired temperature.

Temperature control is in Centigrade or Fahrenheit, so it’s BREXIT ready. The temperature is simply selected, after you switch on the power, using the + or - button. The range of temperatures is from 100˚ C to 240˚C which is 212˚ F to 464˚F. You can also increase or decrease the temperature whilst the unit is functioning. You can also choose between a 5 minute and 10 minute heat session.

Heat up time from 15˚C to 180˚ C/356˚ F with a full bowl of tobacco is about 20 seconds. The unit then happily ticks away for 5 or 10 minutes, dependent on the duration you have pre selected.

The heat spread is consistent throughout the bowl, meaning there are no cold spots. I measured a 4˚C difference at 240˚C between the bowl wall and bowl centre. Again this is most impressive. My PAX 2 is far less accurate than the XMAX and has considerable variations in bowl temperature, sometimes in excess of 7˚C.

Getting the most from your Xmax

There are 4 main factors which you need to take into account here. They are as applicable to the Xmax as to other HnB loose leaf vaporisers. So we´ll look at each in some detail.

 

1.Choice of tobacco

The PH level of tobacco smoke is a determining factor in its acute toxicity. Cigarette tobaccos all vary, but a rise above 6.2 results in increased levels of Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines, Benzene, Cadmium and all of the other nasties contained in tobacco smoke.

Bright, Flue Cured and Virginia tobaccos produce a lower PH value of between 5.2 and 6.00. However, these levels increase as the cigarette is smoked. In any case, and apart from the carcinogens present in tobacco smoke, the main culprit is carbon monoxide. Any combustion of a carbon based substance will produce carbon monoxide.

Pipe tobacco on the other hand with both high and lower sugar content is less acidic than cigarette tobacco, and becomes progressively more alkaline during the course of smoking. This reduces the quantity of ´nasties` produced In the burn process. Apart, that is, from carbon monoxide.

As every smoker knows, pipe tobaccos are simply too irritating to be inhaled when burned. This is mainly due to the high alkaline content of the smoke. It also probably explains why pipe and cigar smokers suffer lower levels of lung cancer than cigarette smokers.

HnB circumvents almost all of these issues because the tobacco isn´t burned. There is no carbon monoxide and the levels of all known carcinogens are reduced either to practically zero or a figure so low that it is insignificant. As an example PMI have published open data science which concludes that their IQOS reduces toxic and carcinogenic produce by 90% to 95% when compared with the CR34 standard test cigarette. Those figures are about the same as e cigs.

So, you load up your XMAX with some Marlboro Red or Aromatic pipe tobacco, switch on your heating chamber and start to inhale. The first two or three puffs are OK, but suddenly the quantity of vape is reduced to a whisp and the flavour disappears.

 

2. In order to use any watch you need to be able to tell the time

Your first reaction to the above scenario is to turn up the heat. The XMAX in this regard is like some early Magnox Nuclear Reactor. So you crank up the heat to 464˚ F/ 240˚C and normal service is restored. Success? No. Why? Because tobacco combusts at 451˚F/232˚C.

You have to remember that temperature is the average energy of molecules in a system. If you need to know more about this have a look at the Maxwell Boltzmann Distribution Theory. Or get a life.

On the other hand, all that you really need to know is that even at 430˚ F/ 221˚C some tobacco will start to combust and you do not want that to happen, because once combustion starts you will be inhaling all of the same carcinogens found in a regular cigarette.

So stay away from high temperatures.

 

3. This is too complicated for me….

Bring on the Propylene Glycol PG. If you you use an ecig, or HEETS you are inhaling PG. It’s safe.

Most Vape shops sell PG and 500ml is less than a fiver. PG is used in ecigs and HEETS to replicate the “throat hit” you get when you smoke a normal cigarette.

Vape grade PG is about 80%PG and 20% water. It has a boiling point of about 250˚F or 121˚C .

If you like clouds of vapour, then bring on the Vegetable Glycerin VG which has the same boiling point as PG. Most good vape shops will sell this too, for about the same price as PG.

The only drawback to to VG is that it is used as a sweetener, so I recommend using more PG than VG. If you can’t get your PG / VG from your vape shop, then go to a chemist and get the Pharma grade stuff. Just remember to dilute it with water. Distilled is best.

4. Important.

Pharma grade PG and VG have a boiling point of 290˚C/554˚F. Such heat will burn all of your tobacco, your vaporiser, your house, you and the entire neighbourhood. And in the present political climate, should you have the misfortune to survive, you can expect to spend the rest of your days at GTMO in Cuba, learning advanced Arabic. So add 20% water.

You might want to increase the nicotine yield in your HnB aerosol. If so, splash out on a bottle of 50%VG 50% nicotine solution.

Oh, finally you will need a pipette or a syringe used for refilling ink cartridges. You can carefully discard the blunt needle.

None of this stuff is expensive and you are only going to be using small quantities anyway.

The Recipe

  1. Open your 30g pouch of tobacco.
  2. Extract 30ml of PG using your pipette or syringe.
  3. Layer the PG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  4. Extract 20ml of VG using your pipette or syringe.
  5. Layer the VG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  6. Wait 5 minutes, then finger mix the tobacco, PG and VG together for about 2 minutes.
  7. If adding nicotine do so in 5ml stages. Wait 5mins then finger mix.
  8. Wash your hands.

The first thing you will notice is that your tobacco pouch will be bulging at the seams. You are now ready to go. Half fill your bowl with the mixture. Switch on your XMAX, set your temperature and inhale.

The quantity of aerosol is more than adequate. The flavour of the tobacco is pronounced and well satisfying. Oh, the shark gills.Yes I nearly forgot. Any crud that has fallen out of the bottom of the bowl can be cleaned out by just blowing through the shark gills.

And this is where the XMAX scores. It scores because:

  • It is cheap, really cheap.
  • Whilst it doesn’t produce the same volume of aerosol as a PAX 2, its enough.
  • There is no connection between the electronic gizzards and the airflow.
  • Any excess moisture or dribble will not touch the delicate electronics.
  • It is easy and simple to use.
  • It produces better results than loose leaf vapourisers costing 10 times more than the XMAX