So the first of January is almost here, and most of us will be thinking about New Year resolutions. What are we going to do better in 2018? If you’re a smoker, it’s pretty likely that your resolution is to quit the habit. Every year, about 9% of British adults say their New Year resolution is to quit smoking – that’s more than half of all Britain’s smokers.
The problem is, most of them won’t succeed. In fact most won’t even try very hard to quit smoking because, whatever health campaigners say, most smokers don’t really want to quit. They know they should quit, but that’s not the same as actually wanting to. The truth is, smokers usually enjoy it. They like the taste, they like the effects of nicotine and they like the social aspects of it. For many people the positives outweigh the harm, especially as that’s all uncertain and probably years in the future.
Obviously, if smokers enjoy the habit and only feel they should quit because of the health risks, there’s a place in the market for something that’s just as enjoyable but doesn’t have the risks. That’s why e-cigarettes have grown so quickly; a quarter of British smokers have now started vaping, and more than half of those have switched completely.
The problem is, vaping doesn’t work for everyone. Some ex-smokers like the variety of flavours you can get, but others want something that tastes like their favourite cigarette – and there’s no way to do that with an e-cig. It just isn’t possible to recreate the flavour of burned tobacco. The devices can also be quite fiddly, especially if you want good performance. The best e-cigs need a bit of work to get the coils set up properly and the liquid blended to your taste. Even the simplest ones aren’t quite as simple as smoking.
That’s where heated tobacco comes in. Because heated tobacco products use actual tobacco, instead of a flavoured liquid, they can get much closer to the taste of a real cigarette. The tobacco isn’t actually burned, of course, but it’s still heated enough to recreate the flavour very closely. The latest HnB devices are also very simple to use – sometimes exactly the same as a cigarette; you just take one out the pack and light the end.
So heated tobacco can match the taste, sensation and convenience of smoking, but how does it stack up in terms of health? There’s been a lot of debate about that, because the products are so new, but this year we’ve seen some data starting to appear – and it’s all looking like good news.
How safe is heat not burn?
It isn’t nicotine that causes the health problems associated with smoking. It isn’t really tobacco, either. It’s smoke. When you burn something you create a whole list of toxic by-products. If it doesn’t burn with perfect efficiency – which is almost never will – the worst chemical that gets created is carbon monoxide. This is what causes almost all the heart disease in smokers.
As well as carbon monoxide, burning tobacco produces tar. This isn’t the same as the tar that goes on the roads, but it’s close enough – dark, sticky and oily. Tiny droplets of it boil off from the burning tobacco and condense in your lungs. Unfortunately, tar is riddled with chemicals that cause cancer and other lung diseases.
Tar and carbon monoxide are both bad for you, but there’s something else they have in common and you probably spotted it – they’re produced by burning. With Heat not Burn the clue is in the name – they don’t burn anything. That means there’s no tar and no carbon monoxide – and, right away, most of the danger of smoking is eliminated.
You’ll hear people say that, because HnB products are so new, there’s no way to know how safe they are – and they might be even worse than cigarettes. That simply isn’t true. Science has come a long way in the 140 years since modern cigarettes were invented, and the vapour from the latest HnB devices has already been very thoroughly studied. Right now, experts are saying that it’s about as safe as e-cigarette vapour, and the best estimate is that e-cigs are at least 95% safer than smoking.
Does it work?
So HnB is very similar to smoking, but a lot safer. But does it really work as an alternative? Yes it does. The most popular heated tobacco device right now is PMI’s iQOS, which was released in the UK just over a year ago. It’s been on sale in Japan for nearly two years – and it’s already made a huge difference to smoking rates. In the first half of this year alone cigarette sales fell by 11%, as millions of smokers switched to HnB. That figure is probably a lot higher by now, and PMI are saying that over 70% of Japanese smokers who’ve tried iQOS have quit smoking by completely switching to it.
Heat not Burn has been tried before, but it’s never really worked out. Two things have changed that. One is that, thanks to vaping, most smokers are now more willing to at least try an alternative; the other is that the technology is just better now. iQOS really works, and BAT’s rival Glo is likely to appear in British shops next year. There are other new products on the way, too. Before long there will be a range of HnB options for any smoker who wants them.
There’s no doubt that quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, but for most smokers it’s not easy; they struggle to quit, most will fail, and even those who succeed are likely to miss it. If you’ve decided to make quitting your New Year resolution for 2018, but you’re not really looking forward to the attempt, maybe it’s time to try something smarter. Instead of putting yourself through the misery of withdrawal, go for a solution that lets you keep the positive aspects of smoking but eliminate almost all the risk.
Quitting is hard; switching to Heat not Burn is easy, because you’re not really giving anything up. If you think it’s time to stop smoking, but you’re not exactly bursting with enthusiasm at the thought, grab yourself an iQOS starter kit and get started. Don’t quit – upgrade!