As mentioned before we are not all about the iQOS, sure it’s a great bit of kit but there are also many others out there. Here we see our very own HnB aficionado Fergus doing a hands on video review of British American Tobacco’s entry into the heat not burn market, the BAT Glo.
As Fergus rightly points out this is currently on limited release but as soon as it becomes available here in the UK we will do our best to add it to our online web store where we are currently selling the iQOS.
Also please see the “related” area underneath this video review for more posts related to the BAT Glo, including a very good tear down of the NeoStick, which is the name that BAT uses for its tobacco sticks.
We will be doing another video on the Vapour2 PRO Series 7 within the next couple of weeks along with an extensive blog post review so watch this space!
Heat Not Burn UK, not satisfied with being the most comprehensive blog in the world on everything there is to know about Heat Not Burn are now actually selling the superb iQOS system along with corresponding HEET tobacco sticks.
Currently we are only selling to UK customers but we hope to be able to roll out to the rest of the world sometime in early 2018. We currently have a special offer on all iQOS kits and that is the special price of just £75 for either a navy or white iQOS starter kit along with a packet of 20 HEETS. The recommended retail price for the iQOS is £89 so our price of £75 is a very good price indeed.
Shipping is via Royal Mail First Class recorded delivery and all orders are sent out very promptly. Every iQOS kit sold comes with a no-quibble 1 YEAR GUARANTEE too, click the banner below to be taken to our online store.
Over the last few months this site has been focusing quite heavily on iQOS and its BAT rival, Glo. We make no apologies for that; they’re both excellent products, they’re either on the market or will be soon, and we think millions of smokers are going to enjoy them as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. If you’re interested in switching to heat not burn, iQOS is probably your best option in most countries. Glo isn’t widely available yet, but we can expect BAT to start rolling it out beyond its Japanese test market as soon as they’ve ramped up production of NeoStiks.
We’re fair-minded people, though, and we don’t want to give Philip Morris and British American all the publicity, so this week we’re going to look at a few less well known products that are either available, have come and gone or are planned for the near future. Some of them are promising; some of them are flops. But we think they deserve some attention anyway.
The V2 Pro was originally released about three years ago, and although it’s never really taken off it’s survived and gone through several upgrades. The standard models use a proprietary magnetic connector to let you switch between different atomisers, which included a conventional e-cigarette tank and a loose leaf version. That has some power limits, though, so V2 have diversified their range and produced a dedicated tobacco vaporiser.
V2’s Pro Series 7 is a chunky but compact device about the size of a highlighter pen. Its oval body has a built-in battery, charged through a magnetic port, and at the other end is a removable mouthpiece. Pull that off and you’ll find a generously sized vaporising chamber that can be filled with your favourite loose leaf ingredient – we’d suggest a good pipe tobacco.
We haven’t managed to test the Series 7 ourselves (although we will if anybody wants to send us one) but it looks very promising. This could give the popular Pax 2 a run for its money in the loose leaf category.
iSmoke One Hitter
Similar in concept to the original V2 Pro, this is another pen-style vaping device that looks a bit like an eGo or Evod – but, instead of a clearomiser for e-liquid, it has a loose leaf atomiser that will hold almost a gram of tobacco.
If you’re looking for an affordable intro to HnB, this might be ideal. It only seems to be on sale in the USA right now, but the recommended price is a tempting $19.99. With traditional loose leaf devices averaging about $150 for a good one I’d be tempted to try this myself. It’s compact, looks simple and seems to do a pretty good job of turning tobacco into vapour without burning it.
We’ve talked about the Pax 2 before. It’s one of the most highly regarded loose leaf vaporisers out there, and has built a solid reputation for good build quality, excellent performance and durability(even if the $200 price tag is a bit steep). Now its makers have gone one better, and introduced the unimaginatively named Pax 3.
If the older model is too expensive for you, look away now; the Pax 3 costs an eye-watering $275. It delivers a lot for your money, though. As well as the high quality we’ve come to expect from this company it has some nice tweaks and a couple of completely new features.
The Pax 3 is mainly designed for “dry herbs”, but also works very well with hand-rolling or pipe tobacco. It has a capacious chamber that will hold enough tobacco to give you a satisfying vape session, plus the option to load a smaller amount and use a spacer to keep it well packed.
One issue many people had with the Pax 2 was the mouthpiece overheating, but a new design in the 3 fixes that. It keeps the bottom-mounted heating chamber, which also means the vapour has a chance to cool slightly before reaching your mouth.
Finally, the Pax 3 can now be controlled and adjusted through an iOS or Android app. Which lets you adjust the heating temperature to taste. This makes for a very versatile device, and if you don’t mind the price tag it’s hard to think of a better loose leaf vapouriser.
The original Ploom was developed by the people who now make the Pax series, but the technology and name were bought by JTO a couple of years ago and updated into the PloomTech. Some of the original Model 2 kits are still kicking around, though, and if you can get one they’re definitely worth a try.
Ploom 2 is similar to iQOS and Glo in that it uses proprietary tobacco inserts – but these are very different to the cigarette-like Heets or NeoStiks. Instead they’re tiny, bullet-shaped capsules made of heavy foil, which drop into the heating chamber and get punctured by the mouthpiece. A heating coil vaporises the tobacco, and you get a mouthful of aromatic fumes.
Overall this works pretty well – not as well as iQOS, but it’s less like a cigarette if that bothers you. The capsules come in a decent variety of flavours, too.
So will any of these devices take the heat not burn market by storm? If I’m honest here, probably not. None of them have the marketing clout behind them that Glo and iQOS do, and none of them are really as good either. The loose leaf devices are tarred with the illegal drugs brush – they work fine with tobacco, but tobacco isn’t what anyone sees you using one is going to think of. They can also be very expensive to buy. Of course you’ll then save on the cost of tobacco, but it’s still a lot of money to hand over for a small gadget.
It’s always worth keeping an eye on the market, though. This is a fast-moving technology, and with iQOS proving popular everywhere it’s available (and Glo doing very well in Japan, apparently) a lot of companies are going to try to move in. Most of them will fail, but there’s always the chance of some very nice products appearing. We’ll certainly be looking out for anything interesting!
If there’s a bad thing about heat not burn it’s that the latest products aren’t widely available yet. That’s slowly changing as they roll out across new markets, but when we reviewed iQOS last summer it was only on sale in a handful of countries – and the UK wasn’t one of them. Obviously we were very excited about doing one of the first UK reviews of a product that’s turned out to be a real game changer.
Well, now we’ve done it again. British American Tobacco’s new Glo is only available in Japan and South Korea right now, but Heat Not Burn UK have managed to get our hands on one and, as promised, it’s now been through a full review.
You might remember that we did a preliminary review of the Glo a while ago. That was interesting, but it did have some limits. The main ones were that it was a borrowed device, there weren’t many sticks with it, and the person who actually had it was at the other end of a Skype conversation and half way down a bottle of wine. It did give an idea of what Glo was like, but couldn’t match up to actually having one right here to play with and use regularly for a couple of days.
Anyway, on to the review:
Hands-on at last!
Unlike the last time we reviewed a Glo, this one came with the full retail packaging. The lid of the sturdy box comes off to reveal the Glo itself in a plastic tray; lift the tray out and you’ll find another one holding a USB cable, cleaning brush and warranty card.
Glo looks and feels very different from the iQOS. Instead of a slim tube about the size of a medium cigar, it’s more similar to a single-18650 box mod. In fact, although I haven’t taken it to bits, I suspect that’s what powers it. The wider edge of its nicely round aluminium body is exactly the right size to hold an 18650.
The device feels well-made and solid, without being too heavy – it’s noticeably lighter than a slightly smaller box mod. The end caps are grey plastic, with a glossy finish on the top one. The top cap also has a cover that slides open to reveal the NeoStik holder. On the bottom there’s a micro-USB charging port and a small plastic flap with a ring of tiny holes in the middle. Closed, this allows enough airflow for the device to work; slide it towards its hinge and let it go, and it springs open to allow access for the cleaning brush.
Apart from that there isn’t a lot to see. Everything is operated by a single metal button on the front of the device, set in an LED-illuminated ring. Well, I say “everything” but there isn’t really much to control except for turning it on.
To use the Glo, all you have to do is slide the top cover back and insert a NeoStik into the hole. Push it down until there’s only about an inch sticking out the top – it sometimes seems to stick a bit near the bottom, but you won’t break it. Then all you have to do is press the button and wait.
Glo seems to heat up slightly faster than iQOS – probably because it only goes to 240°C, instead of 350°C – and you can easily tell when it’s ready. Firstly, the LED ring around the button progressively lights up; when it’s fully illuminated you’re ready to go. Just in case you get distracted the device will vibrate and buzz when it’s at running temperature. Then all you have to do is start puffing.
When the device thinks the stick is done it will vibrate again and turn itself off; just pull out the stick, dispose of it and close the top cover. If you use it the way you’d smoke it runs for long enough to take ten or a dozen puffs – just like a cigarette. The question is, does it deliver the same experience?
Using the Glo
My Glo came with two packs of NeoStiks, one each in Menthol and Bright Tobacco flavour, both carrying the Kent brand. I played with the device for a few days, vaping a menthol stick every couple of hours as a change from my e-cigs – my plan was to keep the regular tobacco sticks for a full-day trial, as I was never a menthol smoker. I also cut one of them up for the last article.
I have to say, though, the menthol sticks were pretty good. The taste and sensation they delivered were exactly like a Consulate or Marlboro menthol, so these sticks are a definite win. If you smoke menthols right now, I think you’re going to like the Glo.
Anyway, last Friday morning I made sure the Glo was fully charged, put all my e-cigs away in a cupboard for the day, and broke out the bright tobacco sticks. I loaded one into the device, hit the button and waited for it to heat up. Then I vaped it.
Well, it was pretty good. It wasn’t like the high-tar cigarettes I used to like, but if you smoke Marlboro Gold it’s very close to that experience. There’s no shortage of nicotine hit, and the vapour replicates the taste of cigarette smoke very well.
One stick isn’t much of a test though; what I wanted to know was, could I use the Glo all day? Would it be satisfying enough to keep a smoker off the cigarettes? So, after my first stick, there were nineteen more to go. And I got through them all.
It worked, too. At no point did I feel that the sticks weren’t satisfying enough, and I usually sub-ohm 24mg e-liquid. I found myself reaching for the pack of sticks about every 40 minutes through the day. Using it was easy, too, and I didn’t find the short wait for it to heat up all that annoying. Once a stick is finished you can just drop it in the bin – there’s no need for ashtrays, and you won’t get flakes of ash all over the place either.
One thing I did notice was that there’s a distinct tobacco smell. By the end of the day my office smelled as if someone had smoked a couple of cigarettes in it. That was completely gone by next morning, though, with no stale aroma hanging around. Would it become more persistent if you used Glo every day? I don’t know the answer to that one.
Compared to iQOS the Glo isn’t quite as satisfying, probably because of its lower running temperature. To compensate, it’s a lot easier to use because you don’t need to worry about battery life so much.
When we first discussed the Glo, one interesting point was the claimed battery capacity. iQOS needs to be recharged frequently; the larger Glo packs in a lot more power storage, and BAT said a single charge would be enough to vape more than 30 NeoStiks. I admit to being sceptical about this, but it’s true.
After vaping a full pack of twenty sticks, the power indicator – that LED ring around the button again – showed the battery still had half its charge left. That’s pretty impressive, and means a single charge should keep a Glo in action all day.
Does Glo deliver exactly the same experience as smoking? Not quite – but it’s very close. If e-cigarettes don’t quite do it for you this gadget will definitely be worth a try when it starts appearing in your market.
A couple of months ago we looked at what’s inside one of the Heets that PMI’s iQOS is fed with. That’s turned out to be quite a popular post, which isn’t really a surprise. After all, it’s an exciting new technology and people want to know how it works.
Heat not Burn UK is an impartial site, though, and we don’t want to give too much free publicity to PMI, so the next two posts will be dedicated to British American Tobacco’s Glo. This has featured in our articles before, and we even did a limited review of it, but now we’re in a position to go a bit further. Although Glo has only been released in a couple of test markets so far, we now have one and a supply of NeoStiks for it. The next article here will be a full review of the Glo, based on using it exclusively for a couple of days.
This time we’re going to look at the innards of a NeoStik, just to see how it compares to a Heet. The two products are very similar in concept, so as you’d expect they’re put together quite similarly as well. The most obvious difference is the shape – NeoStiks are much longer and slimmer than Heets, so there’s no way to use one kind of stick in the other kind of device.
We’ll look inside a NeoStik in a minute, but first let’s go back to something that’s been said on this blog a few times – that you can’t put a Heet or NeoStik in your mouth, light the end and smoke it. Well, I still don’t know if you can do this with a Heet (and I suspect you can’t) but with a NeoStik? Yes, you can. They burn just like a normal cigarette, so you can smoke them. It’s not a good idea, though.
For a start, they only last for a few puffs, so even if the sticks end up being significantly cheaper than cigarettes it would be a very expensive way to smoke. The other problem is that after those few puffs there’s a strong taste of burning plastic. The internal components of the NeoStik are made to resist its operating temperature of about 240°C; if you light it things get much hotter. The smoke from a burning NeoStik isn’t any healthier than a cigarette, and once you start inhaling the plastic bits it’s probably a good bit worse. So don’t smoke them.
Investigating the NeoStik
Let’s assume you’re going to be sensible and use your NeoStiks in your shiny new Glo, like you’re supposed to. What exactly is it you’re slotting into the gadget?
Like a Heet, a NeoStik sort of resembles a miniature cigarette. However, where a Heet is the same diameter as a cigarette but much shorter, a NeoStik is about the same length as a cigarette but much slimmer. Here’s a side by side comparison of the two. If the Heet looks a bit scruffy that’s because it’s the empty paper from the one that was dissected for the article back in June, but you can still get a good idea of the size:
The NeoStik on its own is a very neat, slim item. As you can see from the grid on the board, it’s about 84mm long – the same length as a standard king-size cigarette. It’s only about half the diameter though. So anyway, what’s inside it? Time to get the scalpel out and slice it down the middle:
Straight away we can see why it’s possible to smoke a NeoStik. Unlike the Heet, which contains a small plug of rolled, reconstituted tobacco sheet, half the length of the NeoStik is filled with what looks like normal cigarette tobacco. So that answers that one. Now, what’s the rest of it?
Unfortunately the NeoStik couldn’t be dismantled the same way as the Heet could, because apart from the tobacco all the bits are firmly glued to the paper and can’t be removed without ripping the whole thing to shreds. It’s possible to see what’s in there, though.
Just above the tobacco is a rigid plastic lining that extends the full remaining length of the stick. Over half of it is empty, and there’s nothing between this empty section and the tobacco, which is why there are little bits of shredded leaf visible inside it in the photos – the scalpel blade pulled them with it. However, unless you cut the stick up the tobacco is firmly packed enough that it won’t go anywhere, and it wouldn’t matter much if it did.
Next there’s the filter. Like the Heet’s filter it’s very short, probably so it doesn’t absorb too much of the vapour. With these products there isn’t really any need for much of a filter, because the vapour contains little or no solid particulates. Finally, the end that forms the mouthpiece is empty – there’s just the plastic lining to keep it rigid.
A familiar concept
So the internal structure of a NeoStik isn’t that different from a Heet; it has most of the same parts, although they’re put together differently. This is probably because it works in a different way. The iQOS has a blade that the Heet is pushed down onto, and when the device is switched on this heats up.
Glo doesn’t have a blade; if you open the cover on the air intake at the bottom you can look right through the device. Instead, there’s a heating coil around this tube; it heats up the part of the NeoStik with the tobacco in it. If you look at a used stick you can see where the heat has slightly darkened the paper in and above this section:
So there you have it. This is BAT’s take on a heat not burn product, and while it follows the same principles as iQOS there are a few tweaks to how they’ve done it. How does it compare? The next article will be all about that!
Last week one of my friends, knowing of my interest in Heat not Burn products, pointed me to an article in the Washington Post. This was written a couple of weeks ago, apparently in response to Philip Morris submitting their
iQOS device for FDA approval as a modified risk tobacco product, so it was a great opportunity to write an informative article about the technology and its potential as a safer alternative for smokers.
Instead, of course, journalist William Wan decided to write a festering pile of alarmist manure. The start of the headline says it all – “Big Tobacco’s new cigarette”. iQOS isn’t a cigarette. A Heet may resemble a cigarette, but it isn’t one. You probably could put one in your mouth and light it – I know I’ve said before that you can’t, but now I’ve tried it with a Glo NeoStik – but why would you? The iQOS itself is an electronic device, just like an e-cig.
iQOS gets the Matt Myers treatment
Wan starts off by describing iQOS fairly accurately, but quickly moves on to the fuss being created by anti-nicotine fanatics in the public health industry. These are the same people who’ve been campaigning noisily against vaping for the last few years, so as you’d imagine, the idea of HnB has twisted their knickers so tightly that I can hear them twanging from here. Not only are HnB designed for the same purpose as e-cigs – as a safer, recreational way to use nicotine – but, unlike 99.9% of the vape devices on the market, they really are made by big tobacco companies!
The article quotes extensively from Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Despite the name, CTFK doesn’t actually seem all that interested in keeping tobacco out of the hands of children; ever since e-cigs appeared they’ve taken a fanatically hostile position on harm reduction, while doing basically nothing about actual tobacco cigarettes.
Revealingly, Myers didn’t talk about iQOS at all. Instead he confined himself to ad hominem attacks on PMI, harping back to their attempts to downplay the dangers of smoking between the 1960s and 1980s. Of course, PMI itself is an organisation, and it’s people who make decisions and do things. It goes without saying that the people who ran PMI in the 1980s aren’t running it now.
None of this seems to matter to Myers, though. He seems obsessed with the idea that iQOS is part of some cunning ploy by PMI. Calling the company “masterful liars”, which he says is “a fact proven by decades of experience” (see the last paragraph…) he openly questions their motives, asking “What’s their ultimate game plan with this thing?”
If Myers really wants to know what PMI’s ultimate game plan is, I suppose he could always ask them – not that he’d believe anything they say, because in his mind the company is still what it was in 1963. In fact PMI are very open about the risks of smoking, and they have a clear plan to move their entire business to reduced risk products. And the reduced risk leads on to the worst thing about Wan’s article.
Wan claims that there has only been one independent study of iQOS’s emissions. This is quite simply not true; PMI themselves have commissioned several independent labs to look at the product, and the results are freely available. The study Wan is referring to was carried out by three Swiss researchers, and calling it controversial is a serious understatement.
The researchers claimed that they’d found much higher levels of toxic substances than all the other research that has been done, and understandably PMI weren’t too happy about that. In fact they were so unhappy that they wrote to the researchers’ universities to complain. Wan makes this out to be some sinister plot to silence any criticism, but in fact, reading PMI’s online rebuttal of the study it’s not hard to see why they were so annoyed about it. The study, frankly, is junk science.
Good intentions? Maybe. Bad science? Yes.
To get consistent results, scientists have to use consistent methods. Because cigarettes have been studied for so long there are standard ways of creating, capturing and analysing the smoke; using these methods lets researchers compare their work with other people’s. PMI have released about thirty studies on iQOS so far, and they all used these methods. Importantly, while they’re all open to the charge of being released by a tobacco company, they’re also all peer-reviewed. This means they’ve been examined by independent experts, who agree that the science is sound.
The Swiss researchers, for unknown reasons, decided not to use one of the standard scientific methods for their experiments. Instead they created a hybrid method of their own. This is a serious problem. Firstly, it makes it almost impossible to compare their work with the existing research. Secondly, it seems to have created some very odd results.
According to the new study, levels of several toxic chemicals in iQOS vapour are much closer to the levels in cigarette smoke than PMI are saying. PMI have pointed out that the Swiss team’s results for cigarette smoke seem to be wrong – and not just slightly wrong, but wildly wrong. For example, using a standard reference cigarette, they detected levels of acetone that were less than half of what everyone else has found. For formaldehyde they got a tenth of the correct result, and for aromatic hydrocarbons – which they say iQOS has more of than a cigarette – the real level of these chemicals in a cigarette is fifty times higher than what they reported.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that their measurements are so hopelessly inaccurate that nothing in their study can be taken seriously. They might not be dishonest, but at the very least they’re incompetent. The level of carbon monoxide they reported for the reference cigarette was actually higher than the machine they used is capable of measuring, so where did they get the number from? Did they just make it up? Bluntly, they might as well have. It wouldn’t have made any difference to this study, which is total crap from start to finish.
Is IQOS a new product that it’s legitimate to have questions about? Of course. Did Philip Morris lie about the health risks of smoking three decades ago? Sure. But they’ve done a lot of science on iQOS,and they were quite happy to have it checked by independent experts and release it to the public. This time, they’re the ones who’re being honest.
There’s been a lot of excitement among American vapers about Friday’s announcement from the FDA. The big news was that the deadline for submitting paperwork under the Deeming Regulations, which was set to wipe out 99% of all vapour products next November, has now been delayed for four years. But there was a lot more to the FDA’s announcement than that, and some of it is also important for Heat not Burn.
In his speech on Friday morning, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb outlined a new anti-smoking strategy for his agency. For the first time the FDA has publicly admitted that there’s a spectrum of risk for nicotine products, with traditional cigarettes at one end, nicotine replacement therapy at the other, and a whole range of products like e-cigs and HnB in between (in reality, very close to the NRT end). This moves the agency away from seeing reduced-risk products as another kind of cigarettes to acknowledging them as a potential solution.
As well as pushing back the deadline for Pre Market Tobacco Authorization submissions, Gottlieb says he’s also planning to make it easier to submit them. Up to now the process has been a complete nightmare. According to the FDA an application takes about 500 hours to complete and costs around $300,000 per product. Those who’ve actually done it say it takes thousands of hours and costs well over a million. Worst of all, it’s hard to tell exactly what should be in it. The FDA guidance document is 500 pages of impenetrable legal guff that nobody can understand, so for most businesses filling out the paperwork is guesswork – and, after spending all that time and money, there’s no guarantee the application will be accepted.
Expensive rules, unclear outcomes
So far we only know of one PMTA application for an HnB product; in March, PMI submitted one for their popular iQOS. That’s now under review by the FDA, although it could take more than a year for it to be approved or declined. The industry will be watching closely; if iQOS is approved it opens the door for rivals like BAT’s Glo, although iQOS will have a useful head start.
The PMTA process has been worrying a lot of people, because it hasn’t been clear how strict the FDA were planning to be. Up to now they seem to have looked at new nicotine products as a menace that should be kept off the market, and that was obviously bad news for HnB. There was a real risk that they’d want to avoid the “mistake” they’d made by letting e-cigarettes get onto the market, and take a hard line from the beginning.
Gottlieb’s new direction could change that. The FDA now seems interested in having healthier options available, and encouraging smokers to switch to them. Although the companies making HnB products are being careful so far not to call them reduced risk, there’s no doubt that they are. If the FDA has been keeping up with the science, they know that too.
Bad science strikes again
It has to be said that the FDA’s strategy has a huge problem. From what Gottlieb said, it seems that they want to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes as a way to force smokers towards alternatives. However, it’s not so clear why this should work. After all, we have evidence from when something similar was tried before.
Tobacco controllers still love to rant about how the industry “lied” to smokers when they released light cigarettes in the 80s and 90s. What they don’t mention is that it was tobacco control who pressured the industry to do that. The result, of course, was that people simply smoked more and took deeper puffs; they ended up inhaling exactly the same amount of nicotine, but a lot more toxic smoke.
Now the FDA seem to think they can try the same trick again but get a different result, which just begs for comments about the definition of insanity. To be fair they might get a different result this time, because now there are real alternatives to smoking, but it’s more likely they’ll just create a massive black market in smuggled high-nicotine cigarettes.
What will decide that is how effective the alternatives are at delivering nicotine. If the FDA’s brave new cigarettes aren’t very satisfying, but neither are the safer choices, most people will just either smoke more or call their dealer and ask when the next batch of proper Marlboro are due in from Mexico. On the other hand, if cigarettes don’t give enough of a nicotine hit but other products do, then people are a lot more likely to switch.
Vape or heat?
So far that’s been the big problem with e-cigs; unless you have decent kit and know how to use it, the nicotine hit isn’t as satisfying as a proper cigarette. Experienced vapers can completely turn that around, but for a beginner – especially somewhere like the EU, with its stupid 20mg/ml cap on liquid strengths – it can be a struggle to get as much nicotine as you’re used to.
Now a leading tobacco harm reduction researcher has compared a HnB product – iQOS – against both cigarettes and e-cigs. The results are interesting, especially in the context of Gottlieb’s plan.
Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, a cardiologist at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre who’s well known for his research into the safety of vaping, compared the amount of nicotine delivered by a tobacco cigarette, several e-cigs ranging from cigalikes to an advanced mod, and the iQOS. What he found was that while the iQOS still isn’t as efficient as a cigarette, but it comes very close – and it’s well ahead of the sort of e-cig people usually try when they think about switching.
If Gottlieb does push ahead with trying to cut the nicotine in cigarettes, a lot of US smokers are going to be very unhappy. Some of them – those who live near Canada or Mexico, for example – will probably just nip over the border to do their shopping. But the rest might be tempted by a product that has a familiar cigarette company brand, is distributed through the same retailers and delivers almost as much nicotine as their cigarettes did. This could be just what it takes to help Heat not Burn become huge in the USA.
When someone mentions Korea most of us think of the mad regime in the North. That’s a pity, because South Korea is much nicer – and, if you’re a fan of Heat not Burn, it’s also a lot more interesting right now. South Korea is now an expanding market for the leading HnB products, so much so that a local company is planning to join in.
Unlike its bizarre Stalinist neighbour South Korea is an advanced industrial country, with a relatively low smoking rate of 19.9% – slightly lower than Germany, but slightly higher than Japan. It also has tough anti-smoking laws that make it illegal to light up in almost any public place. The government is pretty serious about persuading its citizens not to smoke.
Unfortunately it has a couple of serious problems. The first, and probably the biggest, is the army. The country has the world’s sixth-largest standing army and second-largest reserves; in total it can mobilise 3.7 million troops, and all South Korean men have to do an obligatory 21 months of military service. This is a great way to defend against insane, highly militarised neighbours, but not so good if you’re trying to stub out smoking.
Soldiers smoke, often because it gives you something to do while you wait for the army to decide what’s happening to you next, and lots of Koreans pick up the habit while they’re in uniform. That 19.9% smoking rate? It breaks down into around 5% of South Korean women, but about 40% of men.
At the same time, vaping hasn’t really taken off in Korea the way it has in the UK or USA. It is possible to buy e-cigarettes, and there are some local manufacturers, but it hasn’t made a big dent in the smoking figures. Now, major tobacco companies are wondering if Heat not Burn can do a better job.
Here comes iQOS
HnB products are very new to the South Korean market; Philip Morris released its popular iQOS device on 27 May, and now has two stores in Seoul (if you like Korean music you’ll be pleased to hear that one of them is in Gangnam). They’re also selling the iQOS through the CU convenience store chain, which has about 3,000 branches across the country.
Philip Morris say they don’t have any firm sales figures yet but are seeing “growing popularity”. That sounds about right; an employee at a CU store says, “They have been all sold out every day.” It wouldn’t be surprising if this is the case because iQOS continues to do very well in Japan; it took a 0.8% share of the cigarette market in the first quarter of 2016, but had climbed to 4.5% by the end of the year. PMI say it’s now at around 7%.
With the iQOS apparently doing well in South Korea, British American Tobacco are aiming to introduce their rival Glo device in August. Glo is a similar format to iQOS and BAT Korea say they’ll be selling it at a slightly lower price. If they can get the device and its NeoStiks into enough shops it’s likely to catch on too.
A home-grown rival?
The global tobacco companies can’t expect to have it all their own way, though. HnB devices are consumer electronics, and when it comes to developing and manufacturing these South Korea is one of the world’s giants. The country that’s home to companies like Samsung and LG isn’t likely to let imported electronics flood its home market, is it?
No, it’s not. Clearly impressed at the popularity of the new technology, one of South Korea’s own tobacco companies is already looking at moving into the market. KT&G (it stands for “Korea Tomorrow & Global”, but used to be “Korea Tobacco Ginseng”) is the country’s largest tobacco manufacturer. It’s a major player locally, with 62% of South Korea’s cigarette market, and its Esse superslim brand is also popular in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Now KT&G want to release a HnB product to take on Glo and iQOS – and they’re not hanging around. According to the company they’ve been watching the heated tobacco trend since 2012 and want to have their own device on the market by the end of this year.
That’s quite an ambition. If they can pull it off, they’ll be in on the ground floor with PMI and BAT. The multinationals will have a bit of a head start, but not enough to let them build up real dominance, and that’s likely to be balanced by consumers’ familiarity with KT&G brands.
The real question is what will the product be like? Unfortunately KT&G haven’t released any details yet, but if they think they can get in on the shelves by the end of the year – even as a trial product – then its design must already be fairly advanced. A HnB device isn’t something you can just throw together; PMI have invested more than $3 billion in iQOS so far, and BAT can’t have spent much less on Glo.
iQOS is the latest version of a basic concept first trialled in 1998, as Accord, then redeveloped in 2007 as Heatbar.
So will it happen?
If KT&G are going to have any chance at all of getting a product on the market by December, it would need to be pretty much ready to go into production by this point. That means it would need to have been tested already, and probably tried by a good number of consumers to get their feedback on it. If this has been done, it’s been done unusually discreetly – we can’t find any details or images of a KT&G device anywhere.
Of course, South Korean companies are very good at keeping innovations quiet until they’re ready to start marketing them, so it’s very possible that KT&G really do have a product ready to launch over the next few months. If they do, it will be interesting to see how it compares to
iQOS, Glo and other existing devices. Hopefully we’ll know more about it – and whether it will be marketed outside South Korea – soon.
As Heat not Burn products become more popular they’re steadily generating debate among the public, health activists and scientists. So far, the medical profession want to know how much safer they are than traditional tobacco products. Activists want to know if they’re part of a cunning plot to create more smokers. Smokers want to know how good they taste. This already seems like quite a lot to discuss – but it turns out some people are already thinking a lot further.
A few days ago Heat Not Burn UK had the opportunity to interview David O’Reilly, the director of science, research and development at British American Tobacco. David is a real expert on HnB and I had a fascinating discussion with him (so expect to see his name a few times on this blog over the next month or so), and he’s been thinking way ahead of just about everyone else I’ve spoken to.
This Is The Future
One thing David was very clear on is that BAT, like Philip Morris, see non-combustible products as the future. While I was talking to him I noticed that he mentioned, more than once, moving to HnB. Eventually I asked him if he saw it as expanding their product range or repositioning it. “Our customers are moving to safer products,” he said. “We can move with them, or go out of business.” So BAT definitely seem committed to technological change.
What I hadn’t thought about was how far-reaching these changes could be. One of the products we talked about was Glo, BAT’s heated tobacco product. Glo uses “Neostiks”, similar to the Heets that feed PMI’s iQOS, and as you probably know there really isn’t a lot of tobacco in these. David explained just how inefficient a traditional cigarette is; about 90% of the tobacco in it ends up either in the filter or escaping as sidestream smoke; only about 10% of it is actually inhaled.
With a Glo this inefficiency just doesn’t exist. A Neostik has a filter but, like the one on a Heet, it’s mostly just there to give a familiar cigarette-like fee; it’s small and permeable enough that it traps very little of the vapour. Meanwhile there’s no sidestream problem either. In fact once a Glo is powered up and at working temperature it’s generating vapour constantly, but this stays in the heating chamber until you take a puff and inhale it – it doesn’t escape.
The end result is that a Neostik contains about 10% as much tobacco as a traditional cigarette, but it’s pretty much equivalent to it; if you smoke a pack of twenty every day, you’ll probably get through a pack of twenty Neostiks when you switch to Glo – but that’s as much tobacco as just two cigarettes.
I have to admit, I was sitting there making admiring noises about this efficiency when David said, “Of course, we have to think about what effect that will have on the tobacco farmers.”
Well, of course we do. After all, tens of thousands of people rely on tobacco farming for their livelihood. Many of them are in poor countries, too. A 90% fall in tobacco production could have a devastating effect on their economies. Tobacco controllers sometimes argue that tobacco takes up farmland that could be used for food, but the truth is the world isn’t short of food. When famines happen, which is a lot less often than they used to, it’s generally because there’s no way to get the food to the people who need it. Cutting tobacco production by 90% isn’t going to solve world hunger, but it could make a lot of people unemployed.
Then again it might not. The truth is, right now we simply don’t know. Will tobacco production fall significantly in the first place? We don’t know. A lot of it depends on what sort of reduced-risk products smokers actually move to. If they all switched to Glo then yes, a lot less tobacco would be needed. But so far the most popular alternatives are snus and e-cigarettes. Snus is made of tobacco, and e-cigs need nicotine – which is extracted from tobacco.
The most likely outcome is that there will continue to be a range of products, including snus, dissolvables and e-cigs as well as Heat not Burn devices. Total demand for tobacco will probably fall, but not dramatically at first. From the point of view of the farmers that’s likely to be good news. If demand changes gradually they can adjust and cope with it; it’s a sudden shock that would cause mass poverty.
What matters is that people are thinking about issues like this – and they are. Ironically it’s the tobacco industry, usually painted as the villain of the piece, who’s looking into the possible future effects of changing technology. Public health tend to just dismiss the fate of tobacco farmers, airily assuming that they can all start growing organic quinoa instead. Unfortunately life is rarely that simple.
Upping Their Game
The tobacco industry has a bad reputation, and leaked documents from the 1960s and 70s show that, a few decades ago at least, it was far from undeserved. They do also deserve some credit, though. BAT’s research facility in Southampton has been trying to develop a safer cigarette for decades; now they’ve abandoned that apparently hopeless quest and moved on to alternative products instead. They might have been late to the game on HnB and e-cigs, but they’re putting a lot of time and resources into it now.
In the last ten weeks I’ve spoken to researchers and senior executives from two of the world’s largest tobacco companies, and the impression I get is that they’re very serious about harm reduction. It’s unrealistic to expect them to stop selling cigarettes tomorrow, but they seem very determined to stop selling them at some point in the not too distant future. Another thing David O’Reilly, his colleagues from BAT and their opposite numbers at PMI all stressed to me is that products like Glo, iFuse and iQOS are early iterations of the technology. Some very clever people with very large research budgets are already working on improved versions that are simpler to use and give even better performance. The future for Heat not Burn, and every other category of reduced-risk tobacco product too, is looking very exciting.
One of the most popular pages on this site is our review of Philip Morris’s innovative iQOS device. That’s not much of a surprise, because iQOS has probably had more publicity than any other Heat not Burn product and it’s also the most widely available. It’s steadily rolling out beyond the first test markets and can now be bought in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries; before too long it will be available globally, and I think it’s going to be a huge success.
When Heat not Burn UK first tested the iQOS the only sticks that came with it were mild menthols. Those were not as satisfying as they could have been, but did prove the concept. Happily, during our visit to PMI’s research centre at Neuchatel a couple of months ago there was no shortage of them in all flavours, and I got the chance to try an iQOS with a full-strength stick. I’m happy to report that it was very close to the experience of smoking a Marlboro, and an excellent substitute in every way.
Obviously, what made the difference between “Meh, this is okay” on the first iQOS test and “Wow!” on the second one was the sticks it was being fed with. That means it’s probably time to look at the sticks themselves in a bit more detail.
The baby cigarettes that go in the end of an iQOS were originally called HeatSticks, but they’ve now been rebranded as “Heets from Marlboro”. Currently Heets come in three flavours – Amber, which roughly equates to full-strength Marlboro Red; Yellow, a lighter Marlboro Gold; and Turquoise, the mild menthol version. As far as I can tell these all have the same nicotine content, and the only difference is in the flavour.
Anyway, I just called them baby cigarettes. They’re not. Yes, they look like baby cigarettes, and they come in a tiny pack of twenty, but you can’t stick them in your mouth and fire them up with your trusty Zippo. That just won’t work. Even if it did work it would be pretty pointless, because the whole idea is that you don’t burn the tobacco.
In fact there really isn’t a lot of tobacco in there to burn, anyway. Looking at a Heet, you can see that the filter seems to take up about three-quarters of its length:
Not Just Tobacco
It’s not quite this simple, but we’ll come back to that. What’s in the other quarter is the stuff that gets heated, and I’ve actually had the chance to watch it being made in the factory at Neuchatel. PMI made me promise not to put all their trade secrets on the internet, but I can tell you the basics. What they do is blend selected tobaccos to get the flavour they want, then grind them to a fine powder. This is then mixed with water and some other ingredients – vegetable glycerine to keep it moist and generate the vapour; natural cellulose fibres to bind it; and guar (a natural gum) to hold the whole lot together.
This liquid mixture is sprayed onto a conveyor belt, run through a dryer then peeled off in thin sheets. The brown stuff in the end of a Heet is those sheets, rolled up like tobacco leaves in a cigar. When you load a Heet into your iQOS a steel blade in the device cuts into the roll, and when the blade heats up it creates the vapour for you to inhale. That vapour is mostly VG, loaded with aromatic flavours from the tobacco – which is why iQOS can replicate the flavour of a cigarette in a way that e-cigs can never quite manage.
So what else is in a Heet? Well, it’s not just the filter. In fact the filter itself is very short, as you can see:
The actual filter is even smaller than the plug of tobacco at the other end, and it’s really only there to give you the familiar feel of a cigarette filter. Because iQOS doesn’t produce all the harsh combustion compounds you get from a cigarette there’s no real need for much filtration, so it can be very short. In fact if it was much longer it would probably soak up a lot of the VG vapour that you want to inhale.
After the filter is a loose roll of PLA, a very stable, food-safe plastic material. This is what does the real work; it slows the vapour down without absorbing it, giving it time to cool to a more pleasant temperature before you inhale it. This takes up almost half the length of the entire Heet.
Between the PLA and the tobacco is a short length of hollow tube, made of a similar material to the filter. As far as I understand it this is mainly to keep the blade away from the PLA and give the vapour a clear path to start its journey through the Heet. Then finally, at the end, you’ll find that little plug of tobacco.
Small But Complicated
So a Heet might look like a cigarette, but inside it’s a bit more complicated. This, and the fact they’re so small, means they’re also trickier to make; PMI had to do some creative rebuilding of some old but reliable cigarette-making machines to come up with something that would make Heets.
All this effort has paid off, though. It might be tiny, but a Heet will give as many puffs as a full-size cigarette. If you get the strength that suits you those puffs are just as satisfying, too. I had a few lingering doubts about iQOS after my first experiment with it in Poland last year, but using an identical device with Amber Heets was a totally different experience.
What’s most exciting is that, while iQOS isn’t the first generation of this technology, it’s still at a relatively early stage; there’s a lot of potential for development in there. I’m increasingly sure that HnB products like this have a very bright future in front of them.
If you are looking for HEETS we now sell them in our online store.