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Heat not Burn news roundup – May 2018

heat not burn news

As you’ve probably guessed, the team at Heat not Burn UK take a keen interest in anything related to heated tobacco products, so we’re always watching the news to see if anyone’s saying anything we think you should know about. Sometimes we find a big story, and we’ll always let you know about that right away. Other times we just feel like giving you an update on what’s happening.

This week we couldn’t find any big stories to tell you about, so we’ve put together a few of the more interesting smaller ones. We think this is a good way to stay up to date on what’s happening, as well as warning of any threats that might be approaching. We can take it for granted that there will be threats; any vaper knows how vindictive the tobacco control industry can be. This week we’ve picked up one story about health warnings on HnB products, for example.

It’s not all bad news though. There’s some more good news in New Zealand’s bizarre iQOS court case, plus a study from Russia that looks very positive on the health front. Interesting times certainly lie ahead for HnB, but right now we’re feeling pretty optimistic about it all.

 

New Zealand gives up on Heet ban

One of the most positive HnB stories in April was the defeat of the New Zealand health ministry’s legal bid to ban Heets. Last May the ministry, for some bizarre reason, launched a court case against Philip Morris; their argument was that Heets fell under New Zealand’s ban on chewing tobacco, although they’re not actually supposed to be chewed.

It’s not clear why the ministry decided to do this; the case was brought under a 1990 law banning any tobacco product “described as suitable for chewing or any oral use other than smoking”. The law was specifically aimed at chewing tobacco, which carries a risk of oral cancer and sparked a series of health scares in the late 1980s and early 90s; no product like Heets was on the market at the time. However, the ministry came up with an eccentric interpretation of the law that would have banned Heets.

Luckily, Wellington District Court disagreed and threw the case out. They weren’t subtle about it either – the court basically told the ministry that what they were doing was the opposite of what the law was supposed to achieve. Of course, the ministry still had the option of appealing to a higher court.

This week’s good news is that they’ve decided not to do that. It seems that they’ve realised just how weak their legal position was, and backed down rather than face another defeat. This means Heets will stay legal in New Zealand, which is good news for the country’s smokers.

 

South Korea does something silly

South Korea has played a big part in the growth of HnB – after Japan, it’s one of the countries that has adopted the technology most enthusiastically, and BAT chose it as an early test market for their Glo. There’s also at least one indigenous Korean product, KT&G’s Lil /which we’re trying to get a hold of for a review). So at first glance it’s all looking pretty positive – but there seem to be political problems on the horizon.

Seoul’s Ministry of Health and Welfare has just announced that, from now on, HnB products will have to carry graphic health warnings in the packaging. These are the gory pictures that many countries already require on cigarette packets; now South Korea wants them on reduced-harm products too.

In fact graphic warnings were already required in South Korea, but some activists have complained that the image – a needle, representing drug addiction – was unclear. The new ones will show tumours. The ministry’s aim, unfortunately is to spread the message that HnB isn’t safer than smoking – despite all the evidence showing that it is.

 

PMI credits iQOS for growth

Philip Morris International announced a 9,4% revenue growth for 2017, and said this was down to demand for their iQOS device and the Heets it uses. According to CEO André Calantzopoulos the company’s HnB sales are projected to double in 2018. This is a positive sign for PMI’s ambition to establish itself as a leader in HnB, and gain an advantage over its competitors.

There are no guarantees,, though, and PMI shares fell by 17.5% in April following disappointing iQOS sales figures. Some people have interpreted this as a sign that the HnB bubble is already deflating: others aren’t so sure. So far Japan has accounted for the bulk of iQOS sales, and it’s possible that market is saturated for now – most of the smokers who want to switch could already have done so. If that’s the case there’s still a lot of potential for iQOS to sell well in other countries.

 

Science stacks up

HnB hasn’t been studied anywhere near as much as either vaping or smoking, but evidence of its safety is starting to build up. Anti-nicotine activists attacked the first studies because, although they were carried out by independent labs, they were funded by tobacco companies – a classic case of playing the man, not the ball. However, now there’s a new study that can’t be dismissed so easily.

Many governments are interested in the health risks of new tobacco products, and Russia is no exception. A few months ago Moscow seems to have asked a group of researchers to investigate, and their paper was released on the 7th of May. The results make encouraging reading.

The Russian team, from Kazan University, tested the urine of smokers, HnB users and never-smokers. What they found was that, in every case, levels of various toxins in the HnB users were comparable to what they found in the non-smokers – and much lower than in smokers. At the same time they found similar nicotine levels between HnB users and smokers. This backs up the existing evidence that HnB is an effective way of using nicotine that also eliminates most of the risks of smoking.

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KT&G Enter The Heat Not Burn Market With The Lil

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 for one of our extensive reviews. Also if we can get our hands on enough of them we will be selling them right here on this website along with PMI’s iQOS that we are already selling in large numbers.

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.

 

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

 

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More Heat not Burn science – Glo has been tested!

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.

Real science?

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:

  • Glo
  • 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
  • An e-cigarette.

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.

 

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BAT Glo- Heat Not Burn UK gets hands on.

BAT Glo

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.

Some of the team here have been trying their best to shed some new ight on when the BAT Glo is expected to be released here in the UK but so far BAT are playing their cards very close to their chests and we have no further info to share with you.

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!

Update: As promised here is an extensive blog review of the Vapour 2 Pro 7


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Beyond iQOS and Glo – What other options are there?

Beyond iQOS

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.

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V2 Pro

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.

Pax 3

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.

Ploom Model2

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!

 

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Inside the NeoStik

Neostik

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:

Heet (front) and NeoStik

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!

 

 

 

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Heat not Burn takes off in South Korea

South Korea

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.

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What Effects Might Heat Not Burn Have?

What effects

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. People are interested in what effects heat not burn might have.

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.

Consequences?

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.

Selling iQOS and HEETS