So we’re into the last month of 2017 and the end of the year is approaching fast. Christmas is three weeks away, and it’s likely quite a few smokers will be finding an iQOS starter kit under the tree as friends and family try to nudge them in a safer direction. Well, it might be a few smokers – or it might be a lot of smokers. Because 2017 has been a big year for Heat not Burn.
A lot has changed in the reduced-harm tobacco market since January. We’ve seen new products appear, and existing ones rolled out to wider audiences. HnB has started to attract attention from health researchers and lawmakers – which isn’t always a good thing, of course, but it’s an inevitable part of getting the products on sale. So, as Christmas decorations go up and the snow comes down, let’s have a look back at what 2017 has meant for Heat not Burn.
iQOS goes global
When iQOS was first released it was only available in a few test markets, but towards the end of 2016 it began appearing more widely. The UK’s first iQOS store opened in December 2016, and there are now three in London. Last year the product was almost unheard of, but now it’s becoming much better known.
The big challenge for iQOS is the US market. Before it can go on sale it has to be licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, and in March Philip Morris submitted the paperwork to have iQOS classed as a “Modified Risk Tobacco Product”. That application hasn’t been approved yet, but hopefully it should be decided next year. If the FDA approve it – and it’s hard to see how they can refuse – expect iQOS to be a big hit among US smokers.
Meanwhile, the statistics coming out of Japan show just how much potential iQOS has. PMI say they can’t keep up with demand, and every new batch they deliver sells out right away. iQOS really seems to have made an impression – and cigarette sales in Japan fell by an astonishing 11% in the first six months of this year, as smokers moved to HnB.
The growth of Glo
So far iQOS doesn’t have any serious rivals as a mainstream HnB product, but that’s likely to change soon. BAT’s competing Glo was launched in Japan last year; now the market testing has been expanded to South Korea, and next year we can expect it to start hitting other countries. The UK is a likely candidate, thanks to a generally positive attitude to reduced-risk products; BAT will also want to build a presence before iQOS becomes too firmly established as the market leader.
Glo is also the product we have most hands-on experience with at Heat not Burn UK – we did the first UK review of the product a few months ago, following a sneak preview back in February when Dick Puddlecote managed to get his hands on one. That experience was pretty convincing – Glo has a lot of potential, and we think smokers are going to like it when it hits the UK shelves.
Heat not Burn UK visits PMI
In April we were offered the chance to send someone to PMI’s research facility at The Cube in Neuchatel, Switzerland, to see what progress is being made on HnB. This gave us a chance to look at the latest science on the safety of iQOS, which is very encouraging, as well as seeing how HEETs are made in the Neuchatel factory.
What really encouraged us is that PMI aren’t just pinning all their hopes on a single product. They know that electronic devices like iQOS (or e-cigarettes) don’t work for everyone – they’re not a lot of use for people who spend long periods working outdoors or at sea, for example – so they’re working on four separate non-cigarette devices. These include a charcoal-heated cigarette and a device that creates nicotine vapour through a chemical reaction, as well as iQOS and the Mesh e-cigarette.
Lil joins the race
South Korea is a popular test market for HnB products, with iQOS and Glo both going on sale there early in their careers. Now the country’s own industries are waking up to the possibilities. Korean Tobacco & Ginseng have developed their own device, the Lil, which also heats tobacco sticks to create a vapour.
Lil is on limited release in South Korea just now, but should be rolled out across the country quite soon. The question is whether KT&G plan to market it globally. So far they haven’t announced any plans, but H&B isn’t a crowded market right now. This would be a huge opportunity for them to build a global presence.
We’ve contacted KT&G to ask if we can have a Lil for review, but haven’t heard back from them yet. Hopefully we’ll have some news on that soon, because it’s an interesting-looking device and we think it deserves a wide audience.
So this has been an exciting year for Heat not Burn; the technology is making its way into the mainstream, hundreds of millions of people around the world are able to buy the products, and that number is set to grow fast in 2018. If what we’ve seen from Japan is any guide, there’s a possibility that HnB could overtake e-cigarettes as the favourite alternative to smoking within a few years.
In any case, 2017 isn’t quite over yet. There are still a few weeks to go before New Year, and the team at Heat not Burn UK won’t be taking that time off. There will be a video review for the Vapour 2 Pro we’ve been testing for the last month, and we also have a new toy to play with – the PAX 3. This is the latest upgrade of the PAX 2, the most respected loose-leaf vaporiser on the market, and there’s one sitting on the table in HnB UK’s secret headquarters. That will be getting unboxed soon, and tested over the next couple of weeks, so drop in to see what we think of it!
And so it begins. A new paper presented to the American Heart Association claims that Heat not Burn products harm blood vessel function in the same way as smoking. No doubt there are a dozen other studies underway right now that will soon produce papers linking HnB to heart attacks, lung disease and various cancers. Carefully tailored press releases, all including some form of the phrase “as bad as smoking”, will be leaked to sympathetic journalists. Public health activists don’t even need to go looking for friendly hacks; they can just get in touch with the ones who wrote negative articles about e-cigarettes.
If I sound cynical about the new paper, it’s because I am. I switched from smoking to vaping five years ago, just in time to see the tobacco control industry gearing up its campaign against e-cigs. I have to confess that, at the time, I watched it unfold with total incredulity. Here was a product that got smokers to stop smoking, but the activists and scientists who’re always demanding new action to stop smokers from smoking were opposed to it! What the hell was going on?
Well, five years later, I know what’s going on. The tobacco control industry is, in big-picture terms, split between two main factions – and neither of them is really interested in helping smokers to quit. One faction is motivated by a blind, unreasoning hatred of the tobacco companies; if Philip Morris invented a cure for cancer tomorrow, this group would try to have it banned.
The other faction is no fan of the tobacco companies either, but it has different priorities. Its goal isn’t to stop smokers from smoking; it’s to campaign to stop smokers from smoking. Obviously, if all the smokers become vapers or Heat not Burn users, there won’t be any smoking to campaign against – and that means they’ll have to find new jobs, which might involve some actual hard work rather than just being handed taxpayers’ money to complain about things.
Tinfoil hat time?
Claiming that public health campaigners are more worried about their jobs than public health sounds a bit paranoid, but what’s happening in the UK right now tends to back it up. Local councils who’re trying to save money are starting to take a good look at the stop smoking services they fund – and it appears that some of them don’t like what they see. Several services, including Smokefree South West, have had their council funding stopped, and for nanny state groups that’s usually a death blow. Nobody actually wants to give them money, so if the tax tap is turned off that’s the end of them. Smokefree Southwest announced its closure within 24 hours of being defunded.
The reason councils are starting to defund anti-smoking groups is that it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything. Most councillors aren’t daft; they see smokers switching to e-cigs by the thousand, and the UK’s smoking rate falling faster than ever before. Then they see so-called “public health” groups demanding that e-cigs are taxed, restricted and banned out of existence. Finally it occurs to them that not only are these groups not doing anything to reduce smoking; they’re actively campaigning against products that are. So they pull the plug, and another dozen tobacco controllers are forced to get a proper job.
And all this is happening because of e-cigs. Just imagine what’s going to happen when HnB goes mainstream. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if a decade from now the UK’s smoking rate has fallen from its current 16% to around 5%. If that happens a lot more tobacco control funding is going to evaporate, which is why all the usual suspects are already moving to condemn HnB.
What does the science say?
Anyway, back to the paper. What exactly is it saying, and should we take it seriously? The short answer is “Not much and no.” That isn’t very informative, though, so let’s look at it in slightly more detail.
The paper was written by the tobacco research department at the University of California, San Francisco. If you follow the vaping debate that’s probably ringing alarm bells already, because who runs UCSF’s tobacco research department? Yep, it’s Stanton Glantz, the failed aircraft engineer who’s managed to get a job as a professor of medicine despite never having studied medicine in his life. The reality is that Glantz is an activist, not an academic, and this department is shaped in his image: Before they even start doing any research, they know exactly what results they plan to get.
What they wanted to find here was evidence that HnB is just as bad for you as smoking. Now, this is obviously a ridiculous idea. Probably the most harmful single ingredient in cigarette smoke is carbon monoxide, which is produced by combustion, and HnB doesn’t involve combustion.
What they actually mean is that one specific effect of HnB is the same as an effect of smoking. That is obviously not the same thing as saying that using HnB is as bad for you as smoking is. In this case they’re talking about something that isn’t really bad for you at all.
The paper claims that using a HnB product – specifically, iQOS – has the same effect on “Flow-Mediated Dilation”, a way of measuring the efficiency of blood vessels, as smoking a cigarette. In general terms this is true; it’s likely (not certain, but we’ll come back to that) that iQOS will cause a similar short-term effect on blood vessels to a cigarette. Where it all comes unstuck is that the authors go on to say that HnB “does not necessarily avoid the adverse cardiovascular effects of smoking cigarettes”. That statement is a massive problem.
Smoking cigarettes is really bad for your heart. Smoking cigarettes also causes short-term stiffness in your arteries every time you light up and take a puff. But these two facts are not connected. It isn’t the short-term stiffness that makes cigarettes bad for your heart; it’s the couple of hundred daily doses of carbon monoxide, which causes long-term stiffness and the build-up of arterial plaque. Many other things also cause short-term stiffness – caffeine, watching scary movies and exercise are among them. It doesn’t matter, though, because it only lasts a few minutes. Smoking is dangerous because it makes your arteries stiffer all the time, plus promote the build-up of plaque which slowly blocks them. iQOS, being free of carbon monoxide, doesn’t do this.
So what’s really going on with this paper? Leading e-cig expert and cardiologist Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos has the answer, as already reported on this site. According to the UCSF paper, the iQOS delivered 4.5 times as much nicotine to the test subjects (who, it should be pointed out, weren’t people – they were mice) as a cigarette did. As nicotine is known to cause temporary stiffening, that would certainly explain the effect. It would also suggest that it’s nothing to worry about. After all, licensed nicotine products like patches and gum cause an identical effect, and they’re sold over the counter and approved for long-term use.
If we take its data at face value, this paper shows that HnB has the same effect on blood vessels as a nicotine patch, which is regarded as very safe – in other words, there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, what the data show is that the researchers have made a very serious mistake somewhere. According to them, iQOS delivers about 350% more nicotine than a cigarette does – but three independent studies all agree that it delivers about 30% less nicotine. As Dr Farsalinos points out, it is impossible for iQOS to deliver that much nicotine. Therefore the UCSF team have screwed up somewhere, and if they’re working on terminally flawed data, that the whole paper can safely be ignored.
Unfortunately, while this one might be (it doesn’t seem to have gained much traction outside crank medical websites), as HnB becomes more popular we can expect to see more “research” being done and negative stories starting to appear in the press. It’s likely that all the smear stories that have been aimed at e-cigs will be recycled to attack HnB too. If you doubt that, consider this: Just two months ago, a paper from Sweden claimed that e-cigs have the same effect on arterial stiffness as smoking does. Sound familiar?
Heat not Burn is going to get exactly the same treatment as vaping did; I guarantee it. In fact, if anything it will be worse, because the leading HnB products actually are made by the dreaded tobacco companies. Vapers couldn’t really believe what was happening at first, and lost a lot of ground to bad science and scaremongering media before advocates started fighting back. If you’re a fan of HnB, don’t make the same mistakes; start pushing back now.
Recently there has been a few negative news stories about heat not burn products, this will increase as time goes by. Not all of it will be true, a lot of it will be utter nonsense. Here we are posting a rebuttal of one of the more recent “studies” coming out of the USA.
For people unaware of who Dr Farsalinos is he is a cardiologist at the University of Patras in Greece and a recognized expert in vapor devices. His website is www.ecigarette-research.org. Also he is not supported financially (or by any other means) by any commercial entity related to electronic cigarette, tobacco or pharmaceutical industry.
We have got the permission of Dr Farsalinos to reproduce his blog post here on Heat Not Burn UK, all credit is given to Dr Farsalinos.
By Dr Farsalinos
An abstract at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions evaluated the acute effects of exposing mice to a heated tobacco product (IQOS) on endothelial function in comparison with a tobacco cigarette. The study found that IQOS had the same adverse effects on Flow-Mediated Dilatation (FMD), a marker of endothelial function, as the tobacco cigarette. The abstract concluded that “Use of HNB tobacco products does not necessarily avoid the adverse cardiovascular effects of smoking cigarettes”. The poster was, as expected, accompanied by a press statement which concluded with a similar statement: “Using heat-not-burn products may not avoid the adverse cardiovascular effects of smoking cigarettes”.
Although FMD (and other measures of vascular function) have no prognostic value when measured after an acute exposure, the abstract itself could be considered alarming and create some concern. Of course, there has been some publicity on it already. But we all know that “the devil is in the detail”. In this case, some critical information omitted from the abstract is mentioned in the press statement (and in the presented poster to which I have access).
The poster mentions some very interesting information. For the same exposure in terms of duration and puff number, IQOS delivered 4.5 times MORE nicotine to the mice compared to tobacco cigarettes. So, the comparison was between exposure to the tobacco cigarette resulting in 15 ng/mL plasma nicotine levels, versus exposure to the IQOS resulting in 70ng/mL plasma nicotine levels. This creates two fundamental problems with this study, which makes the conclusions of the abstract and press statement obsolete.
First, in laboratory studies it is crucial to compare equivalent exposures. In this case, I suppose none can consider the 4.5-fold difference in plasma nicotine levels as equivalent exposure. Secondly, the fact that IQOS delivered so much higher nicotine levels compared to the tobacco cigarette is not only bizarre but also contrary to all available evidence. In June 2017, I published a study measuring nicotine delivery to the aerosol of IQOS and to the smoke of a commercial tobacco cigarette (the same brand as used in the mice study). We found that, at 2 different puffing regimes (changing puff duration only), IQOS delivered about 30% less nicotine to the aerosol compared to the tobacco cigarette. Recently (July 2017), a research group led by Dr Bekki and Dr Kunugita from the Japanese National Institute of Public Health found that IQOS delivers 30% less nicotine to the aerosol compared to a standardized tobacco cigarette (3R4F). The manufacturer of IQOS published a study in 2016 showing that it delivers (you probably guessed it right) 30% less nicotine compared to a standardized tobacco cigarette (3R4F). So, this amazing consistency from 2 independent and one industry research groups is suddenly challenged by a study showing 4.5 times more nicotine delivery from the IQOS. Obviously, either the 3 chemical studies are completely wrong or something went wrong during the exposure of mice to IQOS and tobacco cigarette.
There is another error, fundamentally linked to the abstract methodology, results and conclusion. It is a fact, observed in humans, that nicotine itself (in the form of NRT-nasal spray) has an adverse effect on FMD. The authors found that, for the same plasma nicotine levels, NRTs had a significant but lower adverse effect compared to smoking. So, what would happen if the NRT delivered 4.5 times higher nicotine levels compared to the tobacco cigarette in this study? We can only make a reasonable assumption. Acute adverse effects on FMD have been observed with other stimulants too, such as (you probably guessed that too) caffeine.
In conclusion, the study found that IQOS has the same acute adverse effect on FMD as cigarettes when delivering 4.5 times higher amount of nicotine compared to the tobacco cigarette. This should have been the study conclusion, but this information was not even mentioned in the abstract (however, it was presented in the poster). Considering that a substantial part of acute adverse effects on FMD is caused by nicotine itself (with nicotine having minimal, long-term cardiovascular risk), in my opinion, this is almost clear evidence that IQOS has a lower acute adverse effect on FMD than smoking (it would have been perfectly clear if the nicotine exposure to mice was similar). In fact it is possible that this adverse effect is caused by nicotine alone. Due to the assessment of an acute effect on FMD, the study has no prognostic value for cardiovascular disease risk. NRTs have the same acute effects on FMD, but they are approved for long-term use as smoking substitutes (by both FDA and MHRA). Finally, I have strong concerns about the experimental procedure because it is impossible for IQOS to deliver more nicotine than a tobacco cigarette with the same puffing regime (at least in humans).
Ever since the first Heat not Burn devices appeared, they’ve been controversial. Most of that controversy has come from politicians and the public health industry, who seem to have hated the technology right from the beginning. If you’re a vaper their complaints will be pretty familiar; HnB users haven’t really quit, they’re still addicted to nicotine, it’s just a different kind of cigarette, it’s all a Big Tobacco plot to get children hooked… you know the sort of thing. It’s all hyped up, it’s all alarmist – and it’s all untrue.
What is true? It’s true that Heat not Burn has the potential to make smoking go away. Public health say they want this to happen, but over the past few years they’ve been very hostile to any new alternatives to smoking. The cynical might think they’re more worried about protecting their jobs than helping smokers find safer alternatives.
This might explain why all the targets set by the traditional anti-smoking lobby are slightly unambitious. Currently the British government’s tobacco control plan – largely written by taxpayer-funded activists like ASH – aims to create a “smoke free generation” by reducing the smoking rate to 5% (it’s currently around 16%). Obviously a 5% smoking rate isn’t “smoke free” in any way that resembles reality, because 5% of the UK population is actually quite a lot of people, but that’s their target. According to the trend in smoking rates over the last few years, that target should be achieved around 2040.
Now that figure is being challenged from an unexpected source. A couple of weeks ago Philip Morris released a report produced for them by Frontier Economics, an analysis consultant. Frontier have looked at the data on smoking rates in the UK, examined the current trends and what’s driving them, and come to an interesting conclusion.
The government might think that they can achieve their 5% target by 2040, but Frontier and PMI are saying that, in fact, they could get there much sooner – by 2029, just twelve years from now. It might seem surprising to hear a tobacco company advocating a faster decline in smoking, but in fact PMI have been saying this for a while now. When I visited their research centre at the Cube back in April they were very open about the fact that they plan to move away from cigarettes as fast as possible, and that the future is in alternative products.
What about vaping?
The problem is that, right now, the most common alternative product in the UK is e-cigarettes – and it looks like they might be running out of steam. The number of vapers in Britain is still rising, and an ever-increasing percentage of them have switched away from cigarettes completely (just under half of UK vapers also smoke, down from 70% two years ago), but growth is slowing down. In 2014, 800,000 British smokers started vaping, but it’s likely that by the end of 2017 the year’s total will be just 100,000. The most likely reason for this fall is that smokers have been scared off by false claims about health risks.
Now PMI say that it’s possible to reach the “Smokefree” target eleven years early – but only if the number of smokers switching to safer alternatives starts to accelerate again, back to where it was in 2014. The question is, what alternative should they switch to?
E-cigarettes are still a popular option – according to Public Health England they’re now the UK’s top choice among smokers who want to quit. It’s possible that, if people like ASH stop talking nonsense about them, the number of smokers switching to them every year could rise again. On the other hand, it’s also possible they could be overtaken by Heat not Burn. In fact I think that’s very likely.
When it comes to quitting smoking, e-cigs have been a game changer. The number of smokers in Britain is falling faster than it ever has before, even though fewer people are buying nicotine gum or using NHS quit services. They’re not ideal for everyone, though. Some smokers find them too complicated; others just want something that tastes like their favourite cigarette.
Is Heat not Burn the future?
I think a lot of smokers who aren’t interested in e-cigs are going to be very interested in HnB, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a device like iQOS isn’t as simple as a cigarette – what is? – but it’s a lot less complicated than a high-end e-cig. Secondly, HnB can recreate the taste of cigarette smoke almost perfectly and that’s important to a lot of people. Many vapers love the array of new flavours they can use, but there are also plenty smokers who just want something that tastes like the smoke they’re used to. E-cigs are never going to recreate that flavour – they just don’t work that way – but PMI have spent a lot of money making sure iQOS tastes as much like a Marlboro as possible, and it’s paid off.
If you want to see how well it’s paid off, just look at Japan. iQOS launched there three years ago, and as of last month it’s taken 13.3% of the country’s nicotine market. It’s already broken even, paying for the enormous cost of developing it, and it isn’t even on sale in most countries yet. E-cigs have been growing fast, but not that fast.
It doesn’t stop with iQOS, either. As well as its direct competitors, like Glo and the new Lil from KT&G, there are more products due on the market soon. A couple of paragraphs back I asked what’s as simple as a cigarette. Well, PMI’s next product is. Using the same concept as RJ Reynold’s Revo, but apparently working much better, these are exactly as easy to use a cigarette. Just take it out the pack, light the end – which contains a charcoal heating pellet – then, when you’re finished it, stub it out in an ashtray. If it works as well as PMI are hoping, this could be even bigger than iQOS.
There’s a lot going on in the world of HnB right now, with new products appearing and existing ones being rolled out into new markets. There’s also a lot of opposition from the usual suspects in tobacco control, and that has the potential to put smokers off trying HnB for themselves. If we’re lucky, however, smoking could more or less disappear from the UK before 2030, and it won’t be plain packs or nagging health campaigns that do it; it will be e-cigs and heated tobacco products.
Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation, better known as KT&G, are the leading tobacco company in South Korea. It looks like they have seen the light with regards to tobacco harm reduction, because they’ve just launched their very own heat not burn product – the Lil.
The product is more similar in design to the BAT Glo than it is to the PMI iQOS, and it looks like it operates exactly the same way that Glo does; it heats the tobacco stick externally, rather than having a central heated blade like PMI’s iQos does. The tobacco stick that Lil uses will be called Fiit. It will also be interesting to see if KT&G run into any patent issues in the future from either PMI or BAT, due to the nature of the tobacco sticks.
The device itself will be available in two finishes – Creamy White and Saffron Blue. KT&G are saying that the unit holds enough charge for 20 Fiits to be used without the need for charging. In the past we’d have been sceptical of a claim like that, but when we reviewed the BAT Glo we found that it did indeed hold enough charge for 20 uses with a fair amount of charge remaining. As the unit is almost the same size as Glo we expect that the Lil’s battery will also be as good as Glo’s is.
Lil is currently on a very limited release in South Korea, but it’s set to gradually roll out to the whole of South Korea.
Will KT&G release it worldwide? That’s a tough one to call, but we doubt that it will. It may well end up in the Asian market but we doubt that it will go as far as Europe or the USA. We would love to be proved wrong though!
As for cost, the Lil has been released at a price that’s similar to Glo and a bit cheaper than iQOS. The Fiit tobacco-filled sticks are going to be priced similar to the Heets and NeoStiks used by its competitors. There is currently a very real possibility of a tax hike going through the South Korean National assembly; that would ramp up the tax on a packet of Fiits, punishing people for having the temerity to switch to a less harmful option – and, of course, keeping those tobacco taxes rolling in.
Heat Not Burn UK will be trying to get our hands on a Lil so that we can give it a full going over in the near future.
UPDATE (13th Nov 17) As expected Korea’s national assembly have decided to tax heat not burn products to the same level as regular combustible cigarettes, thereby punishing people for choosing to use a safer alternative to traditional smoking. There’s not a lot else to add other than saying this is an incredibly moronic decision and will do nothing to help reduce South Korea’s smoking prevalence which currently stands at 19.9%. Expect the price of HEETS etc. to rise from next month in South Korea.
UPDATE (11th Dec 17)
According to a new report from Korea Joongang Daily pretty soon there will be a chance that Heat Not Burn refills will cost MORE than conventional cigarettes in South Korea. How on earth can reduced risk products be priced higher than regular cigarettes? How is this going to help reduce the high smoking rate in South Korea? We have a feeling that there’s something dodgy going on here.
So far, when it comes to reviewing Heat not Burn products, our focus has been on iQOS and Glo. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that they’re gaining popularity very fast and they’re likely to be the HnB devices you see in every corner shop a couple of years from now. The main reason, however, is simple – we reviewed them because we could get our hands on them.
There are other options though, and some of them have been around for quite a long time. Probably the oldest class of HnB devices is tobacco vaporisers. These are also known as loose leaf or dry herb vaporisers, because they’re most often used with dry herbs. Hmm, what kind of herbs? Oregano? Parsley? Probably not, so we won’t go into that here. However, they do work with tobacco, using the same principles as any other HnB product – they apply heat to tobacco, to create a vapour infused with nicotine and flavour compounds while avoiding the toxic carbon monoxide and tar.
The gold standard in loose leaf vaporisers for the last couple of years has been the PAX 2. As well as being extremely popular among the herb fraternity, this also has a reputation for working well with loose leaf tobacco. The problem is that it’s very expensive – in the UK it usually sells for just under £200. That left us wondering if there were any more affordable options. After some searching we came up with the Vapour 2 Pro Series 7. This is still a high-end vapouriser, but at around £120 it’s significantly cheaper than the PAX 2. It’s also an interesting gadget for a few other reasons, so we were quite keen to have a look at it. Here’s what we think.
The Series 7 comes in a nice sturdy box with an outer sleeve. Inside, the top tray holds the vaporiser itself; underneath is another tray that contains a replacement atomiser, charging cable, cleaning kit and spare foil disks, and a clear, easy to use instruction leaflet. Although it was packaged separately, and not in the actual box, a Vapour 2-branded UK plug USB adapter came with it.
Before looking at the device in more detail, let’s look at that replacement atomiser. The Series 7 will take three different atomisers, two of which are supplied with it. One is a loose leaf model, and the other is an e-cigarette tank. The third is for wax concentrates, but you have to buy that one separately.
The actual device is a slim gadget a bit over four inches long, with a flattened oval cross-section. It’s pretty simple; there’s a single button on the front, with an LED surround and three more LEDs below it. Another LED ring is sandwiched between the alloy body and the chromed base. On the base itself is the charging port. Apart from that there are two air slots on the sides, and four grooves running the length of the body that improve the grip. The whole thing is surprisingly light, but feels solid and well put together. The button seems to be chromed plastic but the base is steel.
Most of the device is taken up by the battery, and all the action happens at the top. This end of it is simply an open chamber with electrical contacts at the bottom; all you have to do is drop the atomiser you want into this chamber, and a magnet on its base will lock it in. Each atomiser is topped by a black plastic mouthpiece; both mouthpieces we got look the same on the outside, but they’re not interchangeable.
As this is an HnB site, we’re mostly going to look at the loose leaf atomiser. I did try the e-cig one, though, and it worked pretty well. It wicks a bit slowly to keep up with high-VG liquids, and it’s never going to be a cloud beast, but with a PG-heavy juice this would be ideal to slip in your pocket when you go out. It never seems to leak and the 2ml tank is enough to keep you going for a few hours.
Trying it out
Anyway, back to the loose leaf atomiser. This is a simple enough gadget. If you twist the mouthpiece anti-clockwise it comes off, revealing a cylindrical heating chamber with a perforated foil disk at the bottom – this seems to be there to stop bits of tobacco getting into the air channel that runs through the base. All you need to do then is load the chamber with tobacco, making sure not to fill it above the white ceramic ring near the top. Don’t pack it too tightly, either; otherwise you won’t get any airflow. Then just put the mouthpiece back on and you’re ready to go.
The device can obviously tell which atomiser is fitted, because it switches into different modes depending on what’s sitting on top. The e-cig is a simple push-to-fire system, but the loose leaf mode is different. Press and hold the button for a few seconds until the LED ring around the base lights up red; then just wait for it to warm up. After about 20 seconds the ring will turn amber; in another ten it goes green, and you’re ready to start puffing. It will stay at running temperature for 90 seconds, then automatically shut down; the LED ring will start flashing five seconds before the power goes off.
This is where it gets complicated. I have to say, the first few times I tried it I was more than a bit underwhelmed by the amount of vapour it produced. It tasted fine – very like a cigarette. It seemed to be delivering enough nicotine, too. There just wasn’t very much of it. I’m no cloud chaser, but I’m still used to the vapour production of a modern e-cig, so the little wisps from the Series 7 were a bit of a disappointment.
In fact it was so disappointing that I tried out a suggestion that had been made as a joke: Add some VG to the tobacco. I put some tobacco in a jar, added enough PG to moisten it, and left it overnight. That did a lot for the vapour, but changed the taste quite radically – after all, VG is used as a natural sweetener in a lot of foods.
Heat not Burn UK isn’t a site that gives up easily, though, so I persevered – and finally I cracked it. The secret is the amount of tobacco you put in: Too much, even if it’s loose enough to let the air flow freely, and you don’t get much vapour. Open your baccy pouch, take out enough to loosely fill the chamber – then put about half of it back. I’m guessing that using too much tobacco stops the chamber getting hot enough to create a lot of vapour, but when it’s properly loaded the results are much more impressive.
Battery life turned out to be fairly good. It won’t last a whole day, but it’s easy to charge. The charging port is interesting – it’s magnetic, instead of the usual micro USB. This makes it more robust, and it’s also very quick and easy to connect. If you’re using it at home it’s simple to top up the charge between vaping sessions. Another interesting – but also weird – touch is that there’s a small blue LED mounted on the end of the charger. I have no idea why.
This was the first loose leaf vaporiser I’d tried, and after the initial process of getting to know how it worked I was quite pleased with it. If you’re looking for huge clouds of vapour the Series 7 probably isn’t for you, but if you just want something to replace your cigarettes that could be a different story. It isn’t quite as close to the experience of smoking as iQOS or Glo, but it does have the advantage of flexibility. The mainstream HnB devices have a pretty limited range of flavours right now, and while that will probably grow over time, I doubt it’s ever going to be huge. With the Series 7, however, you have a lot more options. I tried it with standard rolling tobacco and a shredded Cohiba cigar, but you also have the full range of pipe tobaccos available, and I think it could work very well with some of those.
Learning to pack the loose leaf atomiser is a bit fiddly, but once you’ve cracked it the Vapour 2 Pro is a solid performer. The e-cig mode is also a nice touch, and you can switch between e-liquid and tobacco in seconds. Overall this is a very nice system; it seems to be well made, and with a bit of practice it delivers a satisfying tobacco vape. If you’re interested in a loose leaf vaporiser and don’t want to shell out for a PAX 2 (or want the ability to use e-liquid too) you won’t go far wrong with the Vapour 2 Pro Series 7.
Back in April we looked at the latest research on the safety of iQOS compared to traditional cigarettes, and it looked very encouraging for heat not burn devices. Studies carried out for PMI by independent labs found that the vapour from an iQOS had much lower levels of toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke – in most cases, 90% or 95% lower. That’s impressive, especially considering that the tests looked at a much larger range of chemicals than any research done by public health groups.
The down side to this research was that it only looked at iQOS. Yes, that particular product is much safer than smoking, but does it apply to HnB in general? Realistically it’s going to be a while before we know that for sure, but this week some more results were released, this time by British American Tobacco. We recently did the first full UK review of BAT’s new Glo, their entry in the HnB market; now there’s some science to go with our impressions of this device.
Although research done by the tobacco industry in the past has had a bad reputation, things have moved on a long way since the 1960s. Companies like BAT know that anything they publish is going to be scrutinised in minute detail by activist scientists looking for the slightest hint of foul play, so they don’t take any chances. These days they’re scrupulous about following good research procedures and releasing details of their methods, so the research can be studied and replicated. How well are they doing at that? Well, all the criticism of PMI’s research on iQOS has been about where the money comes from; nobody has said a word against the science. That probably tells us all we need to know.
BAT seem to have been just as careful with their own research, which makes the results worth looking at. For a start, they didn’t just bodge up some shonky equipment, like one university did recently when they used syringes to collect vapour from e-cigs. Instead, they studied how people actually use Glo then programmed a robot smoking device to replicate that. Then they tested Glo, collecting the vapour for comparison with a range of other products.
In total seven products were tested:
Three conventional cigarettes, including the standard 3R4F reference cigarette used in most smoking research.
“Another THP (tobacco-heating product)”, almost certainly an iQOS.
“A hybrid product”, BAT’s iFuse
This is a good selection of products, covering all the main categories on the market right now. BAT also tested for a wide range of chemicals. They used the Health Canada testing method to collect vapour, because it’s one of the most thorough methods in use, combined with their own list of chemicals. The FDA test for 28 different toxins in cigarette smoke; the International Agency for Research on Cancer only measure fifteen. BAT’s list has 44 substances in it – not quite as extensive as the 58 that PMI look for, but still much more impressive than what most health researchers are doing.
Checking the chemistry
What’s really impressive is the results of all this testing. Unsurprisingly, most of the vapour from Glo consisted of water vapour and glycerine, which is added to increase the vapour output. That’s interesting, because when we looked at the innards of a NeoStik the tobacco in it looked much less processed than the contents of a Heet. Obviously, even though what the Glo is heating looks like normal cigarette tobacco, BAT have added a considerable amount of glycerine to it somehow. That doesn’t cause any worries, though; glycerine is perfectly safe to inhale.
The nicotine content of the vapour was about 62% of that found in cigarette smoke. This makes sense; using the Glo, it felt similar to a light cigarette, while the 3R4F cigarette is a full-strength blend. In any case, this sort of nicotine dose is close enough to a cigarette that it’s an effective replacement.
Moving on to the less welcome substances, the tests showed sharp reductions in all of them. The lowest reductions were for mercury, at 57.1%, followed by ammonia at 64.3%. Neither of these chemicals are at high enough levels in cigarette smoke to be much of a worry anyway, but any reduction is welcome. For the other 41 chemicals tested, 39 had a reduction of at least 80% and 36 saw levels reduced by 90% or more. Almost half had at least a 99% reduction. The total reduction in toxins was around 90%.
Does this mean it’s safe?
It’s worth pointing out that a 90% reduction in toxins is impressive, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, the single most harmful chemical in cigarette smoke is carbon monoxide, and smoke contains a lot of it. The level in Glo vapour was 98.6% lower. Benzene is another major problem for smokers; Glo reduces the leve by 99.3%. Hydrogen cyanide – 98.8% lower. What this means is that while switching from cigarettes to Glo cuts total toxins by 90%, it almost certainly cuts the health risk by a lot more.
More good news from the study is that iQOS and the e-cigarette gave roughly similar results to Glo (although many of the toxins aren’t found in e-cig vapour at all).
Between this new research and what PMI have already released about iQOS, it seems obvious that HnB is much safer than smoking, and probably about the same as vaping an e-cigarette. A reduction in risk of at least 95% seems likely to be about right. Does this mean that switching to Glo cuts your risk of premature death by 95%? No – it almost certainly cuts it by a lot more than that. Jumping from a ground-floor window is about 95% less risky than jumping from a fourth-floor one, but the risk that’s left doesn’t mean your chance of dying drops from 50% to “only” 2.5%. It means that, if you’re really unlucky, you might twist your ankle.
If you need a final vote of confidence in BAT’s new research it’s just been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. Peer review means a panel of experts have examined and decided that the experiments were good science and the data has been properly interpreted. Of course some extremists will refuse to accept it simply because it was funded by BAT, but open-minded people like our readers can find it here.