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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.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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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

 

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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PAX3 – A better life through science

Pax3

PAX3 IT IS GOOD, BUT CAN YOU MAKE IT BETTER?

Los cojones del perro

When I bought my PAX3 I really didn’t know what to expect. Every review I’d read rated it as the best thing since, since……anything ever invented by man since the wheel.

I have always tried to dismissed hype. After all, advertising is just propaganda by another name. There are good advertisements and rubbish advertisements. There is great propaganda and bloody awful propaganda.

So, I eyed the contents of my PAX3 box with a great deal of scepticism. Is this really going to better than my PAX2? After all, 250 quid is a lot to spend on a vapouriser.

Ah well, in for a penny….And when I did open the box and emptied its contents over my table I was totally puzzled. I have never seen so many bits and pieces all together on one box. This is what I found.

  • The battery and heating unit.
  • Two mouthpieces (one raised and one flat).
  • A base plate (to seal the heating bowl)
  • A base plate combined with a half bowl space
  • A wax oven which fits on the base plate
  • A case
  • A magnetic charger
  • A manual

First of all I should explain that the PAX3 comes in two versions. I bought the most expensive one, and so far as I know, you don’t get all of the accessories with the base model which costs about £200.

 

RTFM

As most of my readers know, I usually throw the manual in the bin and immediately start to disassemble the kit inside the box. However, I didn’t do this on this occasion. Two reasons. First, my bin isn’t big enough to hold the manual. Secondly, the contents of the manual were written in plain and simple English. How many times have you bought something made in China and opened the manual to read something like this….

 

BENCH DRILL

OPERATE INSTRUCTION

PRODUCT INFORMATIC

It is of novel design. Small and exquisite bulk, handy carry. It adopts single phase series motor with high rotable speed. The cent of the product has no class to adjust soon with single kind soon two kinds. The operation please before the manual read……….and so on.

Well, you know how it is. So I was well pleased to be able to make sense of the manual. What´s more, you really should read the PAX3 manual, because to get the best out of a PAX3 you have to make some effort. If you are already the owner of a PAX3, then read on. If you want to read a full review then click here to read Fergus’s review. Then come back later.

 

A BETTER LIFE THROUGH SCIENCE

You have probably forgotten the difference between conduction and convection heating. There is no reason why you should have had to remember it after leaving school. But, to get the best out of your PAX 3 we are going to take you back in time. Way back. You are a 14 year old kid. Last two periods on a Friday afternoon. You are looking forward to getting home and watching the tele. Trouble is, there`s this old fart banging on about convection and conduction and you can hardly keep your eyes open.

Conduction and convection describe heat transfer. Conduction is motionless, like a hot dry iron. Convection needs liquid or gas to move the energy, like a steam iron, or a steam train.

All I´m going to say about this is that the PAX3 is a conduction vapouriser. That is to say, it heats your tobacco with radiant heat from the hot oven walls. Other Vapourisers heat your tobacco with super heated air and that is convection heating.

Both methods have their plus and minus points, but so far as we are concerned there are only 2 issues that matter.

  • Heat up time
  • Even temperature throughout the oven.

The heat up time with the PAX3 is fast for a conduction vapouriser, so that’s not a problem.

The variations in temperature inside the oven are miniscule. The PAX3 is outstanding in this regard. The older PAX2 was not so good. Temperature variations were above 5C, meaning you were forever having to stir your tobacco to get a decent vape. It also meant that there were hotspots inside the oven causing some of the tobacco to start combusting, whilst some remained “cold”. The PAX3 has sorted this out. This makes the PAX3 ideal for what follows.

 

A veces el remedio es peor que la dolencia 

However, sometimes the remedy is worse than the ailment. And in the case of the PAX3 the only problem is the size of the oven. It holds 0.3g which is not very much, and although the quantity is small it does produce a good vape, for a short while. So, how can we make it better?

If we could slow down the vapourising process, without affecting the flavour that would be perfect and it can be done. Here´s how.

PG and VG

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.

 

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 GITMO 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 PAX3, set your temperature and inhale.

Let us know what you think.

 

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IQOS – The view of a vaper

iQOS logo

Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to try an early iteration of a heat-not-burn device. It wasn’t particularly good, but the technology intrigued me. Being a vaper, I wasn’t sure how I would view the product itself, but I know that vaping isn’t for everyone so having another alternative can only be a good thing, right?

Nifty box

I’m not entirely sure if PMI chose the name (IQOS) out of deference to Apple but, they did make sure that the presentation was good.

The IQOS all snug inside its box

What’s in the Box?

All the handy bits and pieces

Tucked under the product tray containing the IQOS pocket charger and the holder are the accessories. Mains adaptor for the USB charging cable, a cleaning device and a bunch of cleaning sticks. Oh, and a manual; which isn’t particularly clear on certain points which I’ll come back to.

Out of the box the pocket charger has approximately 50% charge which means you can get cracking immediately – if, like me, you’re the impatient sort.

Unfortunately, my very first try wasn’t all that successful. Partly because I’m impatient, but mostly because I was an idiot bloke that didn’t read the manual. You see I popped the HEET stick into the holder, pressed the button and waited for it to be ready. I took a few puffs and accidentally hit the button again essentially turning the device off.

This caused a minor problem as the device wouldn’t turn on again. I then didn’t take the HEET out correctly which left the plug of tobacco impaled on the heating blade. I later learned – through ‘reading’ the manual – that removal of a HEET requires the upper part of the holder to be pulled up, thereby lifting the entire HEET (tobacco plug included) off the heating blade.

The sleek IQOS holder and a HEET

The HEETS are, essentially, mini cigarettes. Unlike cigarettes, they don’t contain a lot of tobacco, which is, in fact, entirely the point. Unlike a cigarette, HEETS aren’t meant to be set on fire. The whole idea is that the special tobacco plug is heated to a specific temperature to give the user the taste and sensation of smoking, but without all the other stuff that comes from setting tobacco on fire.

IQOS in all its glory. Covered with grubby fingerprints too.

Using the device felt a little strange at first as I was inclined to try and hold it like a traditional cigarette; which you can’t. Not quite anyway.

Is it any good?

IQOS HEETS, Amber and Turquoise

I was lucky enough to be able to sample two of the HEETS ‘flavours’ – Yellow (roughly equivalent to Marlboro Light) and Turquoise (Menthol) and both tasted as I expected. The Yellow HEETS were smooth and full flavoured, while the Turquoise HEETS weren’t overpoweringly menthol (like some traditional cigarettes can be).

Both offered a warm tobacco taste which left a mild ‘just smoked’ aftertaste which wasn’t unpleasant.

During use, there is a mild tobacco scent which I found to be rather agreeable. However, I did notice a one thing missing. When smoking, there is a faintly audible cue when taking a puff, this isn’t present when using the IQOS. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just something I noticed. After all, IQOS isn’t meant to be an exact like-for-like to smoking, it is an alternative to smoking.

Final Thoughts

A few points to make here. During use, the flavour of the HEET does diminish after half a dozen puffs (give or take), and in some cases, it did taste slightly odd towards the end of the 6 minute (or 14 puff) cycle. This sensation seemed to become more prevalent the more HEET sticks used from a single pack of 20. With a freshly cleaned (or brand new) device, the taste lasts a lot longer.

With smoking, there is a necessity to set aside time to smoke a whole cigarette. The time taken does, of course, vary between individuals. With the IQOS, there’s a set limit of 6 minutes (or 14 puffs whichever comes first). Some smokers take longer than 6 minutes; especially when smoking roll-your-own tobacco which, when left unattended in the ashtray, goes out after a while – unlike a pre-made cigarette which just burns down to the filter.

The battery life of the pocket charger is very good. I managed to get three days of continual use from mine before I had to put it on charge. Sadly, a full charge for the pocket charger takes about 90 minutes. But that is offset by the fact that a full charge can last a few days – dependant on the use pattern.

Cleaning the IQOS holder is a bit of a faff. There are two options – the cleaning brush or the cleaning solution soaked q-tip. I found that using the brush followed by a q-tip rather than one or the other, gave me a better experience post-clean. It is recommended that the holder is cleaned after 20 HEETS are used, and there is a notification LED on the pocket charger to remind you to clean it.

The IQOS does a very good job of mimicking smoking in more ways than one. The slight smell during use, the taste and the sensation all contribute to a solid experience. Some may find cleaning the holder a pain, but it is, unfortunately, necessary to maintain the experience.

A surprisingly good experience at that.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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Surprise result for PMI in New Zealand iQOS case

iQOS case

If you follow the news on heated tobacco products you’ll probably have noticed that Heat not Burn hasn’t been having an easy ride in every market. Despite the spectacular success of iQOS in Japan, where it’s now taken over more than 15% of the cigarette market in just two years, some governments have decided they’d rather keep collecting cigarette taxes than give smokers the option of switching to a lower-risk product.

One recent example of this was New Zealand. Although the country has been making some (uneven) progress towards legalising vaping, the Ministry of Health seems to have taken a strong dislike to iQOS. Philip Morris International started selling the iQOS device, and the Heets for it, in early 2017; the ministry’s response was take them to court for violating a law that was originally intended to ban chewing tobacco.

According to the Ministry of Health, PMI were in breach of Section 29 of the Smoke-free Environments Act. This bans the import, sale or advertising of any tobacco product intended “for chewing, or for any other oral use (other than smoking)”, and technically Heets do come under it – they’re not smoked, because the tobacco doesn’t burn, but they are meant for oral use. However, the law was written in 1990 when HnB didn’t seem to have any future, and PMI have been arguing that it was never intended to apply to products like Heets. They only come under the law because of a technicality, and the company’s position was that it made no sense to use the Smoke-free Act to ban the product.

A lost cause?

The case finally came to trial on 5 March, and following three days of claims and evidence most people assumed that the judgement would go in favour of the Ministry of Health. It’s been a long time since a tobacco company actually won a case brought by a health organisation, after all. iQOS doesn’t benefit from the increasing support for e-cigarettes, either; it’s different enough that many people – even some vaping advocates – still think it’s basically a cigarette.

Well, some people were in for a big surprise. In fact I confess I was one of them. When the judgement was released on Tuesday my jaw hit the floor just as hard as everyone else’s.

Because PMI won the case.

That’s right; the District Court at Wellington rejected a charge laid by its own government’s health department, and awarded victory to a tobacco company. This now means that PMI can carry on selling Heets in New Zealand – and potentially makes iQOS the most accessible product for any Kiwi smoker who wants to move to a safer option.

The previous government had pledged to legalise nicotine e-liquids, but the Labour-Green coalition that replaced it has been dragging its feet on the issue. That means vapers in New Zealand have to import their own liquid from abroad. This can be an expensive and complicated process, and it’s likely to deter many smokers from trying to switch. With Heets once more legally on sale they now have HnB as an easier option.

So what happened?

It’s not clear why the Ministry of Health decided to go after Heets, but when they did they chose to use a technical legal argument based on the strict wording of the law. The Smoke-free Environments Act makes clear references to “any tobacco product” intended for “chewing, or any other oral use (other than smoking).” A Heet is certainly a tobacco product; processed tobacco is the main ingredient in the filling. It’s also intended for oral use – the vapour it produces is inhaled through the mouth – and, because there’s no combustion involved, it’s obviously not smoking.

It’s worth taking a moment to think about that. The health ministry wanted to ban a new, reduced-risk tobacco product because it isn’t smoking. If the Heet was just a new brand of cigarette that would have been fine with New Zealand’s government; their problem was that it wasn’t a cigarette, but something specifically designed to be much safer.

Luckily, PMI’s defence team weren’t shy about pointing that out. They reminded the court that the section of the law was written specifically to ban chewing tobacco, which is linked to mouth cancer – not to suppress a product designed to remove almost all the harm of smoking. The defence also brought a strong expert witness who explained just how safe HnB is compared to smoking. The health ministry tried to claim that this was irrelevant, but the judge disagreed.

The exact tool the judge used to demolish the case was a legal rule called Ejusdem Generis. This says that if particular words describe a class of thing, then any general words that follow it are confined to the same class of thing. So, where the law starts off by mentioning “chewing” then says “or for any other oral use”, it still only means chewing. Based on that the court agreed with PMI and threw out the case; in the process they rebuked the Ministry of Health, telling them that trying to ban a safer product was the exact opposite of what the law was trying to achieve.

 

So what does this mean for heated tobacco products? It’s actually hard to overstate what good news it is. Obviously it’s good for smokers in New Zealand, who once again have iQOS available as an alternative to cigarettes. The big impact, though, is the precedent it sets. Other health ministries who might be thinking about banning Heets will now have to look at this case and consider the possibility that, if they try it, they might just lose.

Health organisations don’t lose often; that’s a sad fact about the nanny state times we live in. This result is going to send shockwaves rippling around the world. A tobacco company has actually won, using the argument that their product is going to help public health and should be protected from misguided laws. Let’s hope the message gets across in other countries too; smokers need more options, not more knee-jerk bans.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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California study claims iQOS risks – but is this good science?

iQOS risks

Im my last post I mentioned that there would be some good news about Glo being released today. What I didn’t know at the time was that some bad news about iQOS was also scheduled for release. Luckily the ever-resourceful Dick Puddlecote tipped me off that it was coming. He wasn’t the only one who knew about the paper, either; Philip Morris International have obviously got hold of an advance copy in plenty of time to have a look at it and compare its conclusions to their own science.

Actually, as a long-time advocate for vaping, this all looks very familiar to me. I mentioned in my last post that tobacco control is increasingly rejecting science, and this new paper is an excellent example of that. I was going to say it’s terrible science, but that’s too kind – it isn’t science at all. In fact PMI’s response completely demolishes it. Unfortunately the media won’t pay any attention to that. They’ll report the bad news, and ignore the response because it comes from an Evil Big Tobacco Company. So I’m going to do what I can to get the message out – and hopefully, in the process, show just how low tobacco control “science” has fallen.

The usual suspects?

The new study has been published by the University of California, Riverside – and that’s something else I’m familiar with as a vaping advocate. The UC system is excellent in many ways, and includes several world-class universities, but it also harbours a nest of virulently prejudiced anti-nicotine loons. The most notorious, of course, is Stanton Glantz, but there are others. So when I looked at the authors of the new paper and saw the name Prue Talbot, I wasn’t at all surprised. Talbot is a professor of cell biology at Riverside – so, unlike Glantz, she does at least have some actual qualifications – and she’s also a fanatical opponent of any form of tobacco harm reduction. Her obsession with the subject started with e-cigs, but now she seems to have transferred it to heated tobacco. And the quality of her science is as bad as ever.

Talbot and her team have come up with the argument that iQOS isn’t really a Heat not Burn device. They’re claiming that it burns tobacco and other parts of the Heet, creating toxic substances in the process, and that the way people use it actually increases their exposure to nicotine and harmful chemicals. The thing is, they aren’t the first people to investigate this, and their results are wildly different to what previous researchers found.

There were four main claims in Talbot’s paper, adding up to the conclusion that iQOS exposes users to serious toxins. They are:

  • Despite PMI’s claims, iQOS does burn tobacco
  • The device runs hot enough to melt part of the filter, releasing toxic fumes
  • The time limit on an iQOS session makes users puff more often, increasing their exposure to toxins
  • Not cleaning the iQOS increases the temperature when it’s heated

These are obviously worrying claims, if they’re true – but are they? The hazards identified by Talbot and her team haven’t been spotted by anyone else, and it’s not like Talbot was the first person to look. PMI did a lot of research into safety before iQOS went on the market, and while it’s easy to dismiss that as industry research, PMI have a big incentive to do rigorous research. They’ve invested a lot of money in moving to less harmful products, after all. If it turned out that those products hadn’t been properly researched, and there were risks people weren’t being told about, their whole strategy would collapse. On top of that, PMI know that if they do the research themselves a lot of people will attack it, so they’ve been using independent labs for most of the work.

For obvious reasons, that research has already looked at all the issues Talbot claims to have found. PMI have looked at each of them, and compared them with their own research. The results don’t look good for Talbot.

Does iQOS burn tobacco?

According to Talbot, the tobacco in a Heet is charred when the iQOS heats up. That, she says, leads to a process called pyrolysis, which creates toxins. Her team decided this after looking at a used Heet under a stereomicroscope – but a stereomicroscope isn’t powerful enough to detect pyrolysis. I have one at home; they’re designed for looking at insects, coins and electronic components. If the tobacco really was charred, like she claims, a stereomicroscope could detect that, but is charring possible in an iQOS?

No, it isn’t. The heating blade in an iQOS never gets hotter than 350°C, and that temperature was chosen for a reason. In a cigarette the tobacco burns at a temperature of at least 800°C, and there’s no way an iQOS will ever get anywhere close to that. PMI deliberately selected a temperature that was hot enough to create a vapour from the tobacco, but not hot enough to burn or char it.

I’ve dissected used Heets myself, and looked at them under both a stereomicroscope and a high-powered biological microscope. I didn’t see any signs of burning or charring; what I did see was some discolouration around where the blade had been. PMI say this is torrefaction, a kind of mild thermal decomposition that takes place around 300-350°C.

PMI also cited Public Health England, the UK Committee on Toxicity and the Netherlands National Institute for Health and Environment, all of which confirm from their own research that iQOS does not burn tobacco – and Talbot is wrong.

Are the filters melting?

Talbot claims that the PLA roll inside a Heet, which is there to let the vapour cool before being inhaled, gets hot enough to melt and release a highly toxic chemical called formaldehyde cyanohydrin.

PMI say that they’ve tested the aerosol from iQOS with advanced techniques, including gas and liquid chromatography, and found no trace of formaldehyde cyanohydrin. They also said that the chemical is found in conventional cigarettes.

Finally, PMI pointed out that PLA is made from corn starch, and is a very safe product. When the PLA filter in a Heet is exposed to the heated vapour it doesn’t melt; it hardens, and it doesn’t release any toxic chemicals. In fact that’s exactly why the material was chosen.

Do users puff more rapidly?

Talbot thinks – and it’s just speculation; she has no evidence for it – that because iQOS switches off after six minutes, users will puff faster and expose themselves to more toxins. What this suggests is that Talbot doesn’t understand how iQOS – or cigarettes, for that matter – works.

Firstly, a smoker who’s used to smoking a cigarette in five or six minutes isn’t going to feel rushed with an iQOS. They can puff at their usual speed, with no worries about running out of time. Secondly, iQOS shuts down after six minutes or 14 puffs. It doesn’t matter how fast you chuff away at it; you’re not going to get any more than 14 inhales. On this point Talbot isn’t even wrong; she’s just making things up.

Does not cleaning the iQOS make it run hotter?

Talbot’s final claim was that iQOS, if not properly cleaned after every session – and she said that PMI’s recommended cleaning routine doesn’t work – collects residue that makes it run hotter and generate more toxic chemicals. Again, PMI point out that she obviously doesn’t know how it works. The temperature of iQOS is electronically controlled and cannot go above 350°C. Again, Talbot seems to be making things up.

 

Nobody at PMI is pretending that there are no toxic substances in iQOS aerosol. That would be ridiculous; there are toxic substances in fresh air. However, all the research except Talbot’s has found that the levels of toxic substances are close to two orders of magnitude lower than what’s found in cigarette smoke. As the product is aimed at smokers, that’s the comparison that should be made.

Overall this looks like the same kind of sloppy, biased research vapers have been used to for a long time. It’s even by one of the same researchers who produced a lot of that sloppy, biased research. The aim of Talbot’s paper isn’t to increase the sum of scientific knowledge; it’s to give tobacco controllers ammunition to bash iQOS and the people who make it. There’s likely to be a lot more of this in the future, so all Heat not Burn enthusiasts need to start activating their bullshit detectors now.

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Tobacco control is becoming a doomsday cult that eats its own children

Tobacco control

Another week, another anti-nicotine conference. This time it was Cape Town’s turn to host the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, a three-day extravaganza of propaganda and hate funded by NRT manufacturer Pfizer. This conference has been running since 1967 and, until the mid-1980s, it was reasonably good at sticking to proper science. Then the prohibitionists started to take over, and since then it’s become increasingly hysterical and extreme. Its activities lost touch with the health effects of tobacco long ago, replaced by an obsession with regulating people’s lifestyles. This year’s event showcased that perfectly, plumbing new depths of ideological nutbaggery even by tobacco control standards.

The most newsworthy thing about the event was the very public blackballing of Derek Yach. This came as a surprise to many; after all, Dr Yach isn’t exactly famous as a friend of the tobacco industry. In fact he was one of the key figures behind the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, when he worked for that organisation as its director for non-communicable disease. The FCTC sets up strict rules for how governments and other organisations are allowed to work with the tobacco industry.

Working together?

However, Yach is also a realist. He knows that hundreds of millions of people actually like tobacco and nicotine, so the chances of them ever going away are roughly zero. The only way smoking is going to disappear is if people are given safer ways of enjoying tobacco and nicotine; that, of course, is what Heat not Burn is all about.

To advance his more realistic agenda, last year Yach agreed to head the new Foundation for a Smoke Free World. The goal of this organisation is to accelerate the process of eliminating smoking globally, so you would expect the people at WCTOH to approve of it. FSFW has already secured close to a billion dollars of funding over the next twelve years, which should make a huge difference to research and education about smoking and safer alternatives.

Unfortunately – from the point of view of the tobacco control industry, anyway – that billion dollars in funding comes from Philip Morris. It’s coming quite openly and without any strings attached, of course; FSFW’s rulebook says quite clearly that the organisation has total control over how funds are spent. PMI can’t tell Yach what to spend the money on or what any research it pays for has to find.

That’s not good enough for the tobacco controllers, of course. Instead of being pleased that so much money is available to reduce smoking, they’re just furious about where it came from – and they seem to be even more furious at Yach for having it when they don’t. Being tobacco controllers they’ve vented their fury in a typically childish way. Last Wednesday, on the first day of the conference, they held a session on FSFW and let rip with every cliché they could think of.

Dick Puddlecote went through the session in some detail on his blog here, here and here, and it’s not impressive; just the usual collection of dishonest rubbish we expect when tobacco controllers are confronted with something they don’t like. Yach is enough of an expert that he could easily have countered all the allegations made against him – if he was there.

He wasn’t there, of course. Even though the conference was held in his native South Africa, Yach didn’t attend. Neither did anyone else from FSFW – because they were declared personae non grata and publicly informed through the conference website that they weren’t welcome and wouldn’t be allowed in.

This is pretty astonishing, to be honest. If Yach’s colleagues weren’t happy with who controlled his funding, they could have discussed it with him at the conference. Instead, they chose to openly turn on one of the most respected people in their profession and ban his entire organisation from a major event. This, as the saying goes, is nothing to do with health. The people who decided to ban Yach are nothing more than quasi-religious zealots, so consumed with hatred of the tobacco industry that they can’t even admit the possibility of it doing anything positive.

Not about health – or truth

The banning of Derek Yach wasn’t the only case of demented spite at WCTOH; several vaping advocates who were there reported being abused by delegates or ejected from sessions. As bad as it was, though, we can write that off as just what you’d expect from the sort of unpleasant people who’re attracted to a career in telling the rest of us how to live. What’s really worrying is the increasingly open hostility to science shown by tobacco controllers.

One of the stars of the conference was Robyn Koval, the CEO of the anti-tobacco group Truth Initiative (which is entirely funded by tobacco industry money). Koval was described as a “visionary” by some WCTOH delegates, but in fact she’s just a marketing executive with no scientific or medical background – and it shows.

Among Koval’s great ideas were to “refuse to legitimise scientific dialogue”, because “any engagement on a scientific level is a win (for FSFW).” There’s no other way to say it: This is appalling. FSFW is pro-harm reduction; most of the science it’s looking at doing is aimed at making safer products available. Why don’t tobacco controllers want to know how safe these new products are?

We know the answer to that one; it’s because every effective harm reduction product on the market is made by what these demented zealots call “the tobacco industry”. They’re still saying that about e-cigs, despite it being obvious for years that most of the market has nothing to do with tobacco companies. Imagine how angry they must be now that HnB is growing in popularity, because those products really are made by the dreaded Big Tobacco.

And so what? Who cares? iQOS has already helped millions of people to quit smoking; Blu, when it becomes widely available, will help millions more. It doesn’t matter that these products are made by companies that also make cigarettes – they still do what they’re supposed to do (and you can find out for yourself by buying an iQOS today).

People who want iQOS banned because it’s made by PMI are saying that they’d rather smokers continue to smoke – and die – than be helped by a tobacco company. This is a fanatical, fundamentalist position. It has strong echoes of the religious concept of original sin, and it’s certainly nothing to do with science.

Science works. It’s the best method we have for examining the world and answering questions about it. There’s already science that shows HnB is much safer than smoking, and more is in the pipeline – some very interesting research on Glo will be released tomorrow. Tobacco controllers hate that, which is why they’re turning their backs on science, expelling heretics like Derek Yach and retreating into the echo chamber of their destructive cult. That’s the sort of people who’re criticising Heat not Burn; my advice is that you treat them the same way you’d treat any other loony cultist.

Ignore them.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49