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iQOS Update – What’s Inside A Heet

iQOS update

One of the most popular pages on this site is our review of Philip Morris’s innovative iQOS device. That’s not much of a surprise, because iQOS has probably had more publicity than any other Heat not Burn product and it’s also the most widely available. It’s steadily rolling out beyond the first test markets and can now be bought in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries; before too long it will be available globally, and I think it’s going to be a huge success.

When Heat not Burn UK first tested the iQOS the only sticks that came with it were mild menthols. Those were not as satisfying as they could have been, but did prove the concept. Happily, during our visit to PMI’s research centre at Neuchatel a couple of months ago there was no shortage of them in all flavours, and I got the chance to try an iQOS with a full-strength stick. I’m happy to report that it was very close to the experience of smoking a Marlboro, and an excellent substitute in every way.

Sticky Stuff

Obviously, what made the difference between “Meh, this is okay” on the first iQOS test and “Wow!” on the second one was the sticks it was being fed with. That means it’s probably time to look at the sticks themselves in a bit more detail.

The baby cigarettes that go in the end of an iQOS were originally called HeatSticks, but they’ve now been rebranded as “Heets from Marlboro”. Currently Heets come in three flavours – Amber, which roughly equates to full-strength Marlboro Red; Yellow, a lighter Marlboro Gold; and Turquoise, the mild menthol version. As far as I can tell these all have the same nicotine content, and the only difference is in the flavour.

Anyway, I just called them baby cigarettes. They’re not. Yes, they look like baby cigarettes, and they come in a tiny pack of twenty, but you can’t stick them in your mouth and fire them up with your trusty Zippo. That just won’t work. Even if it did work it would be pretty pointless, because the whole idea is that you don’t burn the tobacco.

In fact there really isn’t a lot of tobacco in there to burn, anyway. Looking at a Heet, you can see that the filter seems to take up about three-quarters of its length:

There are quite a few bits in here.

Not Just Tobacco

It’s not quite this simple, but we’ll come back to that. What’s in the other quarter is the stuff that gets heated, and I’ve actually had the chance to watch it being made in the factory at Neuchatel. PMI made me promise not to put all their trade secrets on the internet, but I can tell you the basics. What they do is blend selected tobaccos to get the flavour they want, then grind them to a fine powder. This is then mixed with water and some other ingredients – vegetable glycerine to keep it moist and generate the vapour; natural cellulose fibres to bind it; and guar (a natural gum) to hold the whole lot together.

This liquid mixture is sprayed onto a conveyor belt, run through a dryer then peeled off in thin sheets. The brown stuff in the end of a Heet is those sheets, rolled up like tobacco leaves in a cigar. When you load a Heet into your iQOS a steel blade in the device cuts into the roll, and when the blade heats up it creates the vapour for you to inhale. That vapour is mostly VG, loaded with aromatic flavours from the tobacco – which is why iQOS can replicate the flavour of a cigarette in a way that e-cigs can never quite manage.

So what else is in a Heet? Well, it’s not just the filter. In fact the filter itself is very short, as you can see:

From left to right: The tobacco, hollow tube, PLA and filter.

The actual filter is even smaller than the plug of tobacco at the other end, and it’s really only there to give you the familiar feel of a cigarette filter. Because iQOS doesn’t produce all the harsh combustion compounds you get from a cigarette there’s no real need for much filtration, so it can be very short. In fact if it was much longer it would probably soak up a lot of the VG vapour that you want to inhale.

After the filter is a loose roll of PLA, a very stable, food-safe plastic material. This is what does the real work; it slows the vapour down without absorbing it, giving it time to cool to a more pleasant temperature before you inhale it. This takes up almost half the length of the entire Heet.

Between the PLA and the tobacco is a short length of hollow tube, made of a similar material to the filter. As far as I understand it this is mainly to keep the blade away from the PLA and give the vapour a clear path to start its journey through the Heet. Then finally, at the end, you’ll find that little plug of tobacco.

Small But Complicated

So a Heet might look like a cigarette, but inside it’s a bit more complicated. This, and the fact they’re so small, means they’re also trickier to make; PMI had to do some creative rebuilding of some old but reliable cigarette-making machines to come up with something that would make Heets.

All this effort has paid off, though. It might be tiny, but a Heet will give as many puffs as a full-size cigarette. If you get the strength that suits you those puffs are just as satisfying, too. I had a few lingering doubts about iQOS after my first experiment with it in Poland last year, but using an identical device with Amber Heets was a totally different experience.

What’s most exciting is that, while iQOS isn’t the first generation of this technology, it’s still at a relatively early stage; there’s a lot of potential for development in there. I’m increasingly sure that HnB products like this have a very bright future in front of them.

If you are thinking of making the switch then please visit our online store today, click the banner below for more details. We sell everything you need to get you started.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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iQos Review – How good is Heat not Burn anyway?

iQOS

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 UK

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 £49.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49