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iQos Review – How good is Heat not Burn anyway?


Over the last two years Heat not Burn products have gone from being an experiment on sale in a few selected test markets to an increasingly mainstream product. Several devices are on sale or in consumer testing, and public awareness of the technology is growing fast. There are quite a few exciting systems out there now, but the global leader has to be Philip Morris’s iQOS.

iQOS is the latest incarnation of PMI’s heated tobacco stick concept. The basic idea is that a short, cigarette-like tube containing a filter and processed tobacco is inserted into the end of a small electronic device. The device heats the tobacco to around 350°C, hot enough to release a vapour but not to cause combustion.

Early versions of the technology didn’t do very well in testing, but modern batteries and charging systems have made a huge difference. The technology has caught up with PMI’s ambitions for the concept, and the new version is proving to be a big success. Japan was an early test market, and iQOS has already built up a 13% share of the country’s tobacco sales. Even better, almost all users were already smokers and over 70% of them have completely switched to iQOS.

Heat not Burn UK first managed to test an iQOS at the Global Forum on Nicotine in June 2016. That was only a short trial of a few sticks – not the best sticks, either – but it was enough to prove to us that this was a device with a lot of potential. Since then we’ve had a lot more experience of iQOS, including a visit to PMI’s research centre in Neuchatel to see how the tobacco-filled Heets are made. In fact this site is now offering some great deals on iQOS and Heets.

Introducing iQOS

iQOS itself is a very compact and sleek device. It’s much smaller than a modern e-cigarette, roughly the size of the battery from a vape pen. It’s also simple; there’s just an LED and a button. A hole at one end lets you insert a Heet. This isn’t built for hobbyist vapers, who love being able to fiddle and customise; it’s aimed at smokers who want something that’s as close as possible to being as simple as a cigarette.

The device feels solid and well made, and the body is covered in a soft, comfortable rubberised finish. It also comes with a personal charging case; after each session the iQOS slips neatly into the case, and the case’s battery tops up the charge in the device. That’s an essential feature, as we’ll see.

Heets – the cigarette replacement

The iQOS, for all its neat efficiency, is just a sophisticated heater. What really makes the system work is the Heets you feed iQOS with. These look like short cigarettes (although they’re very different inside) and come in packs of 20, so buying them is a familiar experience for any smoker. In fact so is handling them; apart from the length they look and feel exactly like cigarettes – so much that, five years after quitting smoking, almost every time I take a Heet out of the pack I instinctively stick it in my mouth.

Don’t do that. Instead, insert it into the hole at the top of the iQOS. It looks like this might be fiddly, but in fact the hole is shaped to make Heets easy to insert. There’s a bit of resistance for the last half inch, because a blade at the bottom of the hole will be slicing into the plug of tobacco. This blade heats up to create the vapour.

Once the Heet is in place, just press the button to turn it on. As soon as the LED starts blinking green, the heater is active. In less than a minute it will stop blinking and glow steadily. At that point all you have to do is start puffing. After ten or twelve puffs the LED will blink again, and the device will automatically turn itself off.

Does it work?

The big question, of course, is what it’s like to use. Can it really replicate the feel of smoking an actual cigarette? This is obviously going to depend on how much flavour, throat hit and nicotine the vapour provides, as well as how much vapour there actually is. The good news here is that iQOS can indeed replicate a cigarette pretty well; it’s certainly close enough to be a satisfying substitute.

I did have a few doubts after my first trial in Poland. I used to smoke Marlboro Red, and then when they became too weak and bland for me I switched to West Red, a terrifyingly harsh German brand. I was never a fan of light or menthol cigarettes, so of course the only Heets available for my first iQOS experience were mild menthols. That meant I found it less than satisfying, but I gave the device itself the benefit of the doubt and blamed it on the sticks.

It turns out I was right to do that, because when I next tried iQOS there were Amber Heets available; they’re a much stronger, plain tobacco flavour that’s quite close to a Marlboro. At that point I was totally convinced; this device works. The vapour it produces is rich and warm, there’s enough of it to satisfy a smoker (although it doesn’t compare to a modern high-powered e-cigarette) and it doesn’t leave much of a lingering tobacco smell either.

The best thing of all is how closely using an iQOS mimics smoking. Once you have a Heet in and warmed up, all you have to do is pick it up and puff. There’s no fire button to worry about, and no tank to refill. It also feels right. Of course, it’s larger and heavier than a cigarette – but it’s close enough that you can hold it like one. The filter on a Heet also feels exactly like a cigarette filter; in fact replicating the feel is really the only reason it’s there. You don’t need to get used to the feel of a hard metal or plastic mouthpiece.

The verdict

Overall, iQOS is a very impressive device. A lot of time and resources have gone into developing it, to get it as close to the smoking experience as possible. Its battery life is short, but the charging case gets round that easily. Using it is simple, efficient and satisfying. If you need any proof of that, just look at how many converts it’s picking up. iQOS is now on sale in over twenty countries, and there are already millions of happy users all over the world. If you want to quit smoking, but e-cigs don’t do it for you, this clever heated tobacco product is the way ahead.


This review, originally written in July 2016, has been revised and updated because we have a lot more experience of iQOS now.


Want to make the change today from years of smoking combustible cigarettes? Then click the banner below to be taken to our UK based online store where we are now selling the new iQOS starter kit complete with 100 HEETS for just £89.

Buy iQOS

23 thoughts on “iQos Review – How good is Heat not Burn anyway?

  1. The global rollout is actually happening quite rapidly. In addition to Japan, Italy, and Switzerland it is also available in Romania, Portugal, Monaco, Russia, Ukraine, and (just starting now) Germany. If I remember correctly, PMI is aiming at 20 markets towards the end of the year. However, Japan, Italy, and Switzerland are the closest to something like a national rollout. I live in Geneva, and heatsticks are widely available in tabacs in urban areas, and I found much the same when I was recently in Italy. The other markets are much more limited: Lisbon in Portugal, Kiev in Ukraine, Moscow & St. Petersburg in Russia, etc. etc.

    I bought the iQOS recently and have been actively following its progress worldwide. I’m really look forward to the day when it’s available in all of Europe.

      1. Hey Ruud, where do you live?

      2. mostly

      3. Sorry to reply so late, only saw this now.

        In London, you can buy it at the IQOS store on Wardour Street.
        In Switzerland, you can buy the IQOS in most large cities typically at Kkiosk shops (can’t tell you which ones exactly, in Geneva it is sold at the one in the central train station and the one at the airport train station) or at the IQOS lounge at Zurich Airport. HEETs can be bought at a Kkiosk, Naville, Hubiz, and a variety of other stores like that. On top of that, both HEETs and the IQOS are available all over Switzerland through the online store.
        In Italy, I’m not sure, but I have bought Heatsticks at a small tobacconist in a town of 10,000 so I’m sure its available widely.
        In Russia, a wide expansion is underway spearheaded by opening flagship stores in major cities.
        In Ukraine, an expansion is planned but at the moment it’s only possible to buy the IQOS and Heatsticks at the flagship store in Kyiv or online (limited to Kyiv).
        I think the German market is also focussed on flagship stores.
        In Denmark, they are available at most 7elevens I’ve been to in Copenhagen.

        These are all the markets I have followed. I don’t know how it is elsewhere.

      4. You can buy it right here on our website. 🙂

    1. PMI were also working on a HNB cigarette that would not need any electronic heating device and would still be lightened. Something in the vein of the Reynolds Eclipse and REVO. It is published on PMIscience website as platform 2 (PMI Reduced Risk Platform).
      Has there been any progress on such material?

      1. From the Investor Day presentations (available on PMIs website), apparently, a city test is due this year for them. And they will be called Marlboro TEEPs (much like the IQOS Heatsticks have been rebranded as Marlboro HEETS or just HEETs in most markets depending on regulations).

      2. Also, from the investor day material, they specified that once large rollouts will commence they will happen much quicker than with platform 1 because they will just leverage platform 1 infrastructure to deliver them to market (such as by manufacturing TEEPs in the factory that makes HEETs or by selling TEEPs in IQOS flagship stores). So I’m sure if they city test goes well, PMI will be able to start selling them very soon after.

    2. Just to update your information. iQOS is being consistently promoted all over Portugal. I live in north of Portugal and we have great access to iQOS (sold by reps) and heatsticks.

      1. Oh how interesting, thanks for sharing. All I know about IQOS is based on following social media and news and by having been to places where it is sold (Italy, UK, Denmark, Switzerland). Tell me, are Heatsticks still sold as Marlboro Heatsticks or have they been rebranded to HEETs? Also, have the health warnings changed? I know initially they came with the ones that use to be on cigarettes (Fumar mata), whereas usually heatsticks come with a specific message (This tobacco product may harm your health and is addictive). I’d be curious to find out.

  2. […] the news is awash with an announcement from Philip Morris saying that their Heat-not-Burn product iQOS is coming to the UK. London specifically – for the moment at […]

  3. […] the news is awash with an announcement from Philip Morris saying that their Heat-not-Burn product iQOS is coming to the UK. London specifically – for the moment at […]

  4. I am using it now for 6 months and nobody is talking about the side effects: makes you extremely thirsty during the night, causes stomach pain.
    Vape was terrible as the devices after some use often spit hot oil.
    I am now trying the next stage: quite smoking in all forms and shapes.

  5. my question is how much healthier is this kind of alternative smoking? to my mind it would be a good investment potentially, but I’ve haven’t seen any official scientific research so far that it’s actually indicating that it is a lot healthier! Philip Morris hasn’t published the clinical studies yet..and he claims that it is a healthier alternative..but that could mean that it is let’s say 5% healthier than regular smoking, which I don’t think it would worth the investment with that percentage! I’m just saying that the way it works, as healthier as it seems to be, cannot guarantee that it is actually healthier to the level we may imagine unless a research I haven’t found yet proves me wrong..Did anyone came across with any official clinical research so we know to what we are dealing with? Thank you

    1. Well, if you are convinced that smoking is unhealthy – it may really be for you! The only “way out” in this situation is to quit smoking I guess.

  6. Lässt sich mit dem Autotrader eine diversifizierte Strategie verfolgen. Trifft es nicht ein, fallt man auf 0 Punkte zuruck.
    Betrug wird dank der strengen Kontrollen somit rechtzeitig Einhalt geboten.

  7. I’ve tried IQOS and the only cigarette thats good is the menthol one, the rest gives you a burn taste after a while and you simply cannot smoke it. In the first place everything looks good but after smoking 10-15 packs of cigarettes … you have a bad taste of burn when you inhale it.

    1. Have you tried cleaning it?

  8. I have been using IQOS for 1 month. I am sold on the idea of burn and no smoke. My lungs feels the difference. However not pleased with the quality and consistency of the heet sticks. I can tell when I push the stick in, some are really hard packed and some are loose. The loose ones are really fast to heet and gone in no time. Also I would suggest the device should be sold in pairs. A big fear is that my machine will malfunction and then I am hooped. Would be open to try another company’s product for the reasons mentioned above.

  9. […] 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 […]

  10. Hello, I’ve been smoking the Marlboro Heat sticks for a few weeks now, I’ve been trying to find the difference between the amber and the yellow label and I just cant get the information im looking for, the amber one feels a bit stronger, does it have more nicotine?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Eduardo.

      All 3 (turquoise, yellow and amber) contain the same amount of nicotine. The difference between amber and yellow label is that amber is a more stronger taste and the yellow is more smooth.

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