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Another New Gadget – the NOS Tobacco Vaporizer

NOS Tobacco Vapouriser

When Heat not Burn UK launched, we had a real struggle finding new devices to talk about. There was the iQOS, and then there was . . . OK, there was the iQOS, and that was pretty much it. We looked at a couple of loose leaf vaporizers, which turned out to work pretty well with tobacco if you prepare it the right way, but as far as purpose-made HnB devices went, iQOS was really the only game in town.

That’s changing now. Chinese manufacturers are starting to come up with their own designs and it’s all getting quite exciting. I’ve already tested a couple of new devices from China this year – the iBuddy i1 and EFOS E1 – and recently I got another one to play with. The new toy is the NOS from Shenzhen Huachang Industrial Company, and like the other two it used PMI’s Heets. It also has a couple of interesting features that made me very keen to try it out. I’ve spent the last week giving it the usual HnB UK test, and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

The Review

The NOS comes in a sturdy and attractive cardboard box. The outer box is in two halves that were sealed with a sticker; once I’d cut that and pulled the halves apart a flap was revealed, with the NOS underneath in a little foam nest. Lifting the foam out, I found a warranty card and quick start guide, and under those was another layer of foam holding a USB charger and plug, some cleaning sticks and the heating coil, which needs to be installed before using the device.

Once I’d pawed through everything in the box I took a look at the device itself. The NOS is quite small – a fraction of an inch longer than an iQOS, and a lot less bulky than most  of the others I’ve looked at. Its mostly rectangular body looks like a very small box mod with an oversized iQOS cap attached to the top. Just below the cap the body swells out slightly into a thumb rest with the power button set into it, and below the thumb rest is a small OLED screen and two more buttons. There’s a micro USB charging port in the base, and that’s it in the way of controls.

As well as being small the NOS is also light. The body is all plastic – there are a couple of panels set into the sides with a carbon fibre pattern on them, but those are just for decoration. However, it seems solid and well put together, with an overall quality feel to it. Inside is a built-in 1,100mAh 18500 battery. The top cap can be easily removed to give access to the heating coil; just twist it slightly anticlockwise and a spring will pop it off. That reveals a well that the coil simply screws into; then simply push the cap back down against the spring and twist it clockwise to lock it back into position.

I was impressed right away at the removable coil. Like the iQOS, the NOS uses a blade to heat the tobacco, but in this case the blade is made of ceramic. That should give it a longer life than a steel blade – Huachang say it’s good for more than 5,000 sticks – but does make it a bit more fragile, so don’t twist Heets as you insert or remove them; you could snap the blade off. To protect it, the blade is mostly hidden inside the body of the coil. When you fit the top cap to the device its inner tube pushes down a spring-loaded platform to reveal the blade.

Now let’s talk about that OLED screen and the two buttons below it. You might remember from my review of the EFOS that it has two temperature settings (one of which is hot enough to char the tip of the Heet), but with that exception HnB devices run at a fixed temperature. The NOS is different. It’s the first HnB product with a real temperature control capability. Those two little buttons let you adjust the temperature from 300°C to 400°C in five degree increments, so you can customise your vaping experience to suit your own preferences.

The NOS in action

Obviously I was pretty keen to try that out, so I topped up the battery – it takes less than an hour to put in a full charge – and broke open a pack of Bronze Heets. The first one fitted easily down the end cap, and I fired the NOS up by pressing the power button five times.

This is where I started to get seriously impressed. The screen lit up and a NOS logo briefly appeared, then the word HEATING. Nine seconds after the last press of the button that changed to WORKING – and so it was. The NOS heats up even faster than the Lil, which is rather nice.

As for how it vapes, I had no complaints there either. The taste wasn’t quite as good as the iQOS, and I have no idea why – I was using exactly the same Heets in both devices. There was plenty of vapour, though, and there was nothing wrong with the taste; the iQOS just seems, to me, to have a slight edge there.

Once it’s up and running the NOS will work for four minutes or twelve puffs, whichever comes sooner. You’ll get a warning buzz five seconds before it shuts down, which just gives you time to grab a final puff.

As far as battery life goes, well, it’s OK but not spectacular. A full charge is good for about ten to twelve sessions, and then you’re going to have to plug it in. It’s not as good as either the iQOS’s portable charging case or Lil and iBuddy’s day-long power capacity, but it’s not actively bad – and it lasts as long as the EFOS despite being a much smaller, neater package.

Anyway, let’s go back to the temperature control feature. This is very easy to use. With the NOS powered up, just press one of the buttons to bring up the display. This will be familiar to any vaper; there’s a battery charge icon,  large digits show the current temperature, and smaller numbers tell you the resistance and voltage (3.8V and 1.3Ω, I case you’re interested).

I ran a couple of packs of Heets through it at the default setting it came at, which was 325°C. Then I broke out another pack, set the device to 300°C and started to work through the pack, clicking it up by 5°C after each Heet. My reasoning was that with 20 Heets in a pack and 5° increments, I could test the full temperature range with a single pack and get an idea of how temperature affected the experience.

Well, I didn’t make it all the way. Not even close, in fact. Anything below 320°C was a bit on the weak side for me. Then I hit a sweet spot at 325°C – how it came out the box, in other words. It was even better at 330-335°, but then things started going downhill again. At 340° there was a vaguely unpleasant burned aftertaste, subtly different from the burned taste of an actual cigarette. At 345°C that was much stronger, and I can’t say I was sorry when it switched itself off. I wasn’t looking forward to 350° very much, and I was right – it was pretty horrible. When the NOS v2 comes out, I’d like to see it going from 300 to 340°C in two-degree increments, because a lot of its current range just isn’t going to get used.

Yes, we test these things pretty thoroughly

After my experiment in temperature control I dropped the power back to 330°C for the rest of the test, and confirmed what I already thought – at that sort of temperature the NOS delivers a very enjoyable vape. We do give these products a proper test, by the way. A typical review involves at least 100 Heets over several days, so the device needs to be cleaned and recharged several times. This isn’t just an unboxing and a couple of quick puffs for the camera.

Conclusions

So anyway, I ran over 100 Heets through the NOS; what do I think of it? Well, I think it’s pretty good! Bigger than the iQOS but smaller than everything else I’ve tried, and with a decent vaping quality, this is a real contender if you’re looking for a safer way to use tobacco. The temperature control feature is its real innovation, and while I don’t think the current setup is perfect it does start to give HnB users the degree of control over the experience that vapers already have. For a price of around $85, the NOS is definitely worth a look.

 

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iQOS vs Glo – Which Is Better?

iQOS vs Glo

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know that the Heat not Burn UK team have managed to get our hands on a few devices over the last year. This is pretty exciting, because it shows that manufacturers are taking heated tobacco seriously and trying to build a presence in the market. We’ve tried products from Chinese e-cig companies, and the very impressive Lil from KT&G. Right now we have three more HnB products on their way to us, so the reviews are going to keep on coming. As far as we can tell we already have more HnB reviews than any other UK website, and we plan to keep it that way. Read on for our comprehensive iQOS vs Glo comparison.

Being realistic, though, right now two products dominate the HnB market. The punchy new challenger is BAT’s Glo, which we first tested last year and is rolling out across European markets over the next few months. It’s going head to head with Philip Morris’s iQOS, which already holds nearly 15% of the Japanese tobacco market and is the leading product globally.

We’re pretty familiar with both these devices, especially iQOS, but we haven’t talked about them in detail for a while. Now might be a good time to do that, though. Soon they’ll be sitting side by side on shelves across Europe, and millions of people will be wondering which one they should buy. We think we have an answer to that question, so if you want to know what we think, read on!

The Basics

iQOS and Glo both work on the same principle – they generate vapour by heating a stick of processed tobacco, which is inserted into the device. The advantages of this system are that it’s easy to use, easy to clean and the sticks can have a filter that exactly mimics the feel of a cigarette. There are a few differences between them, though. BAT and PMI have taken different approaches to turning the principle into a usable device, and each of them has its plus and minus points.

Shape and size

One look at an iQOS and it’s obvious that PMI put a lot of effort into getting the device as close to the shape and size of a cigarette as possible. It’s still bigger and heavier, but it’s definitely in the right ball park – the iQOS is roughly the size of a smallish cigar, and it’s not too heavy either. I wouldn’t walk around with one hanging out of my mouth, but you can hold it like a cigarette. That’s a big plus for anyone who’s recently switched from smoking, because it makes for a very familiar experience. Of course, making the device so small means compromises, and what’s suffered here is battery capacity. PMI have handled this by providing a very neat portable charging case (PCC), which both tops up the internal battery and protects the iQOS when it’s not in use.

BAT didn’t even try to make Glo resemble a cigarette. Instead they came up with something that resembles a small, very simple box mod. There’s no way you can hold a Glo the same way as a cigarette, which reduces the familiarity a bit. On the other hand it’s still small and light enough to be used comfortably by anyone. The format BAT have chosen does offer one big advantage – there’s plenty room to pack a high-capacity 18650 battery inside.

Overall, though, iQOS wins this round. The actual device is so small and sleek it’s practically unbeatable.

Ease of use

Both devices are as easy to use as it gets. You put a stick in the chamber, press the button, let it heat up, then puff away. They’re also designed to be easily cleaned. So a dead heat on ease of use.

Battery capacity

There’s no getting away from the fact that the iQOS has a small battery. Realistically, you need to put it back in the PCC for a recharge between sticks. It’s not a big deal, because the PCC holds enough power to keep you going all day, but if you’re having a good time at the pub and want to vape three or four Heets in quick succession you’re going to run into problems. PMI were forced to choose between compactness and battery capacity, and they went for compactness.

BAT, obviously, went for battery capacity. I was very impressed when I tested the Glo, because after getting through a full pack of 20 NeoStiks the battery still had half its charge left. You’ll have no problem at all getting a full day’s use from a Glo.

So, on battery capacity there’s really no contest. Glo wins this one hands down.

Vape Quality

Of course, everything else takes second place to the experience of actually vaping the thing. HnB devices are designed to deliver a satisfying vapour that tastes like a cigarette and gives enough nicotine to drive off the cravings, and iQOS does that very well indeed. I’ve talked about my initial doubts before, but once I got my hands on some amber Heets I was very pleased with the vapour I got.

I also liked the vapour from the Glo, but as I said at the time it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the iQOS. I still think that’s because it runs at a significantly lower temperature. I also still think it’s a great device and is going to be satisfying enough for most smokers; the iQOS just has a slight but noticeable edge over it, especially in the density of the vapour.

So, on vape quality, the iQOS wins. This is a pretty subjective thing, of course. I switched to West Red because Marlboro Red were starting to taste weak and bland to me, so I might not be totally representative. If you smoke Silk Cut you might prefer the Glo. But, for me, iQOS is definitely the leader here.

Our Conclusion

iQOS and Glo are both great devices, and they both have their own strengths. The Glo’s main strength – its great battery life – is going to tip the balance for a lot of people, and I understand exactly why it will. On balance, though, the iQOS has enough of an edge in enough departments that, in our opinion, it’s the better choice. That could change as other devices become available (if KT&G decide to sell the Lil 2 globally PMI could have a real fight on their hands) but, for now, iQOS is the winner.

IQOS special offer

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BAT invests a billion dollars in Romanian HnB factory

HnB Factory Romania

There’s been a lot of talk recently from opponents of Heat not Burn – including, regrettably, some of the less intelligent vape reviewers – about how the technology has already peaked. Growth has slowed, they say; fewer smokers are switching to HnB, and the market is already saturated. It’s true that iQOS sales in Japan have slowed over the last quarter, but does this mean the great heated tobacco experiment is fizzling out?

Well, I’m not convinced. Has iQOS reached market saturation in Japan? It might have done. That wouldn’t really be a huge surprise. After all, iQOS is the first generation of HnB that’s really gone mass market. Maybe all the Japanese smokers who feel like switching have done so already, and sales are going to fall back to existing users replacing their devices. This happens when a new product disrupts an existing market.

What’s the good news?

Japan isn’t the only market for HnB, though – not by a long way. iQOS, the most widely available product, is now on sale in most of Europe as well as in Asia, but it hasn’t hit the huge US market yet. It’s still going through FDA approval, but if it gets there (and it probably will) millions more smokers are likely to switch. Then there’s Glo, which so far is only available in selected countries. Maybe KT&G will release their Lil outside South Korea – and I hope they do, because I have one on my desk right now and it’s excellent.

Then, of course, there’s the technology itself to consider. HnB has been around since the 1990s at least, but iQOS, Glo and Lil are the first generation of really effective devices. Compare that with e-cigarettes for a moment. The first really effective, widely available e-cig was probably the JoyeTech eGo. Now compare an eGo with today’s entry-level devices. There’s a bit of a difference, isn’t there? Well, iQOS and Glo are the eGo of heated tobacco.

Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and others are all working to improve and refine the technology that’s gone into their existing HnB systems. Over the next few years we can expect to see improved versions appearing – devices that will be even easier to use, come even closer to the experience of smoking a cigarette, and reduce the harm even more. A lot of smokers who weren’t quite convinced by the first generation of products will decide to switch once something even better is on the market.

Again, this is exactly what we saw with vaping. I found my first e-cig on a market stall in Kabul. It was an old-style three piece cigalike, and it was bloody awful. There was no way a device like that was going to replace my smoking habit, which seeing as 200 Marlboro cost a whole $10 in the PX was pretty heavy. On the other hand it did work just fine to keep nicotine deprivation at bay on my regular seven-hour flights home, so it was enough to keep e-cigs in my mind. Later, when I decided I really had to quit smoking, I found an eGo-C kit and that was actually good enough to do the job. What I’m using now, of course, blows an eGo – or a Marlboro, for that matter – right out of the water.

Growth to come

Anyway, I don’t think the market for Heat not Burn products has peaked, or even come close to its full potential. And, it seems, neither do British American Tobacco. I can say that pretty confidently, because BAT have just announced that they plan to spend a billion dollars upgrading one of their factories and turning it into their European centre for HnB manufacturing.

Romania was the first European market for Glo – and also an early one for iQOS – and BAT already have an established manufacturing capability there. The company’s market share in Romania is around 55%, and to support that they have a large factory at Ploiești. This is the factory that’s going to benefit from that billion-dollar investment over the next five years.

BAT’s plan is to roll Glo out across more European countries in the second half of this year, and to do that they need a reliable supply of Neostiks – ideally a supply that doesn’t involve shipping them from Asia. The plan is for Ploiești to become the sole European manufacturing and supply centre for Neostiks. The plant already supplies the European market with pods for the iFuse hybrid device, so it looks set to become a major centre for BAT’s reduced-harm products.

A bright future

If BAT weren’t anticipating strong sales of Glo in Europe, they’d be very unlikely to spend €800,000,000 on the infrastructure to support those sales. Clearly they’re confident, and I think they’re right to be. Glo will suit a lot of smokers who just didn’t get on with iQOS. Personally I think iQOS comes closer to the taste and sensation of a cigarette, but that has to be balanced against Glo’s huge battery capacity. Both devices have their strong points and I think Glo is going to do well as it hits new markets.

I’m not the only one who thinks that, either. The Times made BAT last week’s Share of the Week, citing the company’s investment in reduced harm products as a likely source of future growth. PMI might have seen their profit growth slow along with iQOS sales in Japan, but investors can obviously see a big market waiting to be tapped into.

Meanwhile, BAT’s Ploiești factory is going to get an extra 7,000 square metres of manufacturing space and plans to take on an extra 200 people to work on the new production line. PMI are also expanding in Romania, spending over $500 million to convert a cigarette factory near Bucharest into a HEET factory. I don’t expect these to be the last HnB projects launched in Europe.

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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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EFOS E1 Review

EFOS E1 with HEET inserted

A few weeks ago we looked at the iBuddy i1, a new Heat not Burn device from China that uses the same Heets as Philip Morris’s iQOS. At the time I thought this was a sensible decision for iBuddy, as it saved them having to develop and distribute their own stick design. I also didn’t think PMI would mind too much; they might miss out on a few iQOS sales, but everyone who buys an iBuddy will need to get Heets for it, and PMI are the only people who sell them.

More recently I was sent another Chinese device that’s also designed to work with Heets; this is the EFOS E1, and I’ve spent the last week running several packs of Heets through it. How did it compare to the iBuddy and iQOS? That’s what I wanted to find out – and now I know.

EFOS E1 box

 

Unboxing

The EFOS is, as I’ve come to expect, nicely packaged. The box has an outer sleeve, and once that’s been slid off the top flap hinges open to reveal the device sitting in the usual moulded plastic tray. That lifts out to reveal an instruction manual and, under it, another tray containing a USB cable and a cloth carrying bag for the device. It’s all nicely presented and gives the feel of a quality product.

The quality of the device itself isn’t bad either. The body is plastic, lozenge-shaped and fits nicely in the hand. On each long edge is a black plastic insert; one has four LEDs to show the charge status, and the other is helpfully printed with some basic information about the E1, including its battery capacity – 2,000mAh, in case you’re interested.

At the top you’ll find the only controls – a large button with an illuminated surround, and a sliding cover that can be pushed up to reveal the heating chamber. The heating chamber is interesting; instead of the iQOS’s blade, or the spike of the iBuddy, this is simply a metal chamber with perforated walls and base. It’s also set at an angle. When a Heet is inserted it’s sticking up about 30 degrees off the vertical, which looks a little surprising at first.

EFOS E1 opened box

Overall the EFOS feels well put together for the $60 price. It is mostly plastic, but it seems robust enough and I didn’t manage to break anything while getting through four packs of Heets. The supplied accessories are good quality too, but it’s a pity no cleaning equipment was supplied – to keep it running properly, it’s probably a good idea to clean the heating chamber at least once in every pack of Heets.

 

Trying it out

My EFOS arrived with the battery about half charged, so the first thing I did was plug it in and top it up. This took a pleasantly short amount of time – just over an hour passed before all four LEDs were glowing steadily. Once that was done I opened a pack of Heets, loaded one into the chamber and then, after some initial embarrassment, flicked through the instruction leaflet to figure out how it works.

The other HnB devices I’ve tried so far are switched on by holding the button until it buzzes or flashes at you. The EFOS is slightly different; it takes three rapid presses to activate it. Once you’ve done that it will buzz and vibrate slightly, and the green LED surround of the button begins flashing. Then all you have to do is wait for it to heat up.

Waiting is never my favourite pastime, and I have to admit I was getting a little impatient by the time 30 seconds had passed. It vibrated again not long after that, though, and I took that as a signal that it was ready to use (which it was). So I took a puff, and it was a bit of a surprise.

EFOS E1 unitFirstly I should say that the angled heating chamber is a great idea; it puts the Heet’s filter in a very natural position to vape. Next, the first puff I took was the best I’ve had from any HnB device I’ve tried so far. It was almost exactly like smoking a cigarette, with plenty of warm, well-flavoured vapour. It continued well for about the next eight or nine puffs, and then both flavour and vapour started to fall off sharply. The device will let you take up to 20 puffs from each Heet, vibrating again to warn you after the 18th; if you’re puffing slowly it will vibrate after five and a half minutes, and shut down in just under six. Personally, I think it would be better to limit it to ten or twelve puffs; 20 is just too much for a Heet.

This is just a minor issue, though. A bigger problem might be that the EFOS itself is too much for a Heet. When I took the first one out the chamber and looked at the end I was startled at how black the filling was. On closer examination this didn’t extend all the way up through the rolled tobacco sheet, but the tip of it – where it’s in contact with the heated base of the chamber – was pretty charred. I got a definite impression that the EFOS was great at the “Heat” part, but falling down slightly on the “not Burn” bit.

Some more flicking through the instruction manual revealed that it actually has two temperature modes, and I was running it in the (recommended) high temperature one. I changed to low temperature for a few Heets, by holding the button for three seconds while I waited for it to heat up, but found that performance fell off quite a lot. I did get more puffs from each Heet, but they much less satisfying.

 

Conclusion

The EFOS E1 is a very interesting device, and on high temperature mode it gives a great tobacco vape. Battery life is reasonable but not great; you’ll probably need to top it up after about ten Heets, and unlike iQOS it doesn’t come with a personal charger. The iBuddy i1, despite having a smaller battery capacity (1,800mAh) kept going for much longer between charges.

My real concern with the EFOS, however, is that I have a nasty suspicion the high temperature mode is burning some of the tobacco. That would certainly explain the great flavour, but it might defeat the purpose of using it in the first place. I still doubt it’s anywhere near as harmful as a lit cigarette, but if health is your top priority you might be tempted to go for an iQOS instead.

Blackened HEET
The end of this Heet looks suspiciously blackened…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IQOS special offer

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XMAX Vital- Cheapest gateway to HnB

Xmax Vital

XMAX VITAL

One of the best and one of the cheapest.

Even though we specialize in and sell the Philip Morris iQOS we are essentially a global heat not burn resource so we will also review other heat not burn products too, so on to the review.

When you buy a loose leaf vapouriser it’s very easy to fall into the trap marked ‘PAY MORE, GET MORE’. Though you often discover the rule that scientists have known for years. It’s called the law of diminishing returns.

Explained in simple terms, let us assume that you need a wristwatch. Well, you can go to Poundland and buy a perfectly functional watch for £1.00, or you can go to Geneva and buy a Hublot Big Bang Ayrton Senna Foudroyante for £25,000.00.

The point is that both watches will tell the time. Beyond that, it’s all downhill for the Hublot. The law of diminishing returns kicks in the minute you bore the arse off everyone by demonstrating how the Hublot can calculate F1 lap times to 100th of a second.

Anyway, I digress. So let’s get back to the review of the XMAX VITAL. This is an old piece of kit, first released in 2015. I bought mine in January 2017 for 35 euros. My usual HnB kits are the IQOS and a PAX2. I didn’t get around to opening the XMAX until January this year.

The XMAX comes in a metallic grey box. When you open the box you get your first view of the vapouriser. Below that is another section of the box which contains

  • The instruction manual
  • Replacement metal mesh screens
  • O ring seals
  • A cleaning brush
  • A micro USB cable and a pair of tweezers

Like a true man, I immediately threw the instruction manual in the bin and set about fetching the thing apart. This was easy. The whole of the insides are held together with 4 Philips head screws. And here’s where it got interesting.

First thing I noticed was the battery. A standard 18650 rated at 3.7V 2600mah battery is more than enough for almost 2 hours solid vaping at full charge and at 240˚C/464˚ F. Impressive for its time.

The Second thing is the size of the ceramic bowl. 1.6cm deep and 1.1cm wide. That’s a hefty load of tobacco. The air feed is from shark gill openings on each side of the vaporiser and then fed into the bottom of the bowl. All of the electronics are in a separate compartment. I will explain why this is so important at the end of this article.

Heat is via a heating element built into the ceramic bowl. This arrangement practically rules out the possibility of electronic shorts ruining your new toy. Very clever.

To start heating, you hold down the power button for 3 seconds and the OLED screen says ‘WELCOME’. It then starts to heat the bowl to the desired temperature.

Temperature control is in Centigrade or Fahrenheit, so it’s BREXIT ready. The temperature is simply selected, after you switch on the power, using the + or - button. The range of temperatures is from 100˚ C to 240˚C which is 212˚ F to 464˚F. You can also increase or decrease the temperature whilst the unit is functioning. You can also choose between a 5 minute and 10 minute heat session.

Heat up time from 15˚C to 180˚ C/356˚ F with a full bowl of tobacco is about 20 seconds. The unit then happily ticks away for 5 or 10 minutes, dependent on the duration you have pre selected.

The heat spread is consistent throughout the bowl, meaning there are no cold spots. I measured a 4˚C difference at 240˚C between the bowl wall and bowl centre. Again this is most impressive. My PAX 2 is far less accurate than the XMAX and has considerable variations in bowl temperature, sometimes in excess of 7˚C.

Getting the most from your Xmax

There are 4 main factors which you need to take into account here. They are as applicable to the Xmax as to other HnB loose leaf vaporisers. So we´ll look at each in some detail.

 

1.Choice of tobacco

The PH level of tobacco smoke is a determining factor in its acute toxicity. Cigarette tobaccos all vary, but a rise above 6.2 results in increased levels of Tobacco Specific Nitrosamines, Benzene, Cadmium and all of the other nasties contained in tobacco smoke.

Bright, Flue Cured and Virginia tobaccos produce a lower PH value of between 5.2 and 6.00. However, these levels increase as the cigarette is smoked. In any case, and apart from the carcinogens present in tobacco smoke, the main culprit is carbon monoxide. Any combustion of a carbon based substance will produce carbon monoxide.

Pipe tobacco on the other hand with both high and lower sugar content is less acidic than cigarette tobacco, and becomes progressively more alkaline during the course of smoking. This reduces the quantity of ´nasties` produced In the burn process. Apart, that is, from carbon monoxide.

As every smoker knows, pipe tobaccos are simply too irritating to be inhaled when burned. This is mainly due to the high alkaline content of the smoke. It also probably explains why pipe and cigar smokers suffer lower levels of lung cancer than cigarette smokers.

HnB circumvents almost all of these issues because the tobacco isn´t burned. There is no carbon monoxide and the levels of all known carcinogens are reduced either to practically zero or a figure so low that it is insignificant. As an example PMI have published open data science which concludes that their IQOS reduces toxic and carcinogenic produce by 90% to 95% when compared with the CR34 standard test cigarette. Those figures are about the same as e cigs.

So, you load up your XMAX with some Marlboro Red or Aromatic pipe tobacco, switch on your heating chamber and start to inhale. The first two or three puffs are OK, but suddenly the quantity of vape is reduced to a whisp and the flavour disappears.

 

2. In order to use any watch you need to be able to tell the time

Your first reaction to the above scenario is to turn up the heat. The XMAX in this regard is like some early Magnox Nuclear Reactor. So you crank up the heat to 464˚ F/ 240˚C and normal service is restored. Success? No. Why? Because tobacco combusts at 451˚F/232˚C.

You have to remember that temperature is the average energy of molecules in a system. If you need to know more about this have a look at the Maxwell Boltzmann Distribution Theory. Or get a life.

On the other hand, all that you really need to know is that even at 430˚ F/ 221˚C some tobacco will start to combust and you do not want that to happen, because once combustion starts you will be inhaling all of the same carcinogens found in a regular cigarette.

So stay away from high temperatures.

 

3. This is too complicated for me….

Bring on the Propylene Glycol PG. If you you use an ecig, or HEETS you are inhaling PG. It’s safe.

Most Vape shops sell PG and 500ml is less than a fiver. PG is used in ecigs and HEETS to replicate the “throat hit” you get when you smoke a normal cigarette.

Vape grade PG is about 80%PG and 20% water. It has a boiling point of about 250˚F or 121˚C .

If you like clouds of vapour, then bring on the Vegetable Glycerin VG which has the same boiling point as PG. Most good vape shops will sell this too, for about the same price as PG.

The only drawback to to VG is that it is used as a sweetener, so I recommend using more PG than VG. If you can’t get your PG / VG from your vape shop, then go to a chemist and get the Pharma grade stuff. Just remember to dilute it with water. Distilled is best.

4. Important.

Pharma grade PG and VG have a boiling point of 290˚C/554˚F. Such heat will burn all of your tobacco, your vaporiser, your house, you and the entire neighbourhood. And in the present political climate, should you have the misfortune to survive, you can expect to spend the rest of your days at GTMO in Cuba, learning advanced Arabic. So add 20% water.

You might want to increase the nicotine yield in your HnB aerosol. If so, splash out on a bottle of 50%VG 50% nicotine solution.

Oh, finally you will need a pipette or a syringe used for refilling ink cartridges. You can carefully discard the blunt needle.

None of this stuff is expensive and you are only going to be using small quantities anyway.

The Recipe

  1. Open your 30g pouch of tobacco.
  2. Extract 30ml of PG using your pipette or syringe.
  3. Layer the PG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  4. Extract 20ml of VG using your pipette or syringe.
  5. Layer the VG evenly across the top of your tobacco.
  6. Wait 5 minutes, then finger mix the tobacco, PG and VG together for about 2 minutes.
  7. If adding nicotine do so in 5ml stages. Wait 5mins then finger mix.
  8. Wash your hands.

The first thing you will notice is that your tobacco pouch will be bulging at the seams. You are now ready to go. Half fill your bowl with the mixture. Switch on your XMAX, set your temperature and inhale.

The quantity of aerosol is more than adequate. The flavour of the tobacco is pronounced and well satisfying. Oh, the shark gills.Yes I nearly forgot. Any crud that has fallen out of the bottom of the bowl can be cleaned out by just blowing through the shark gills.

And this is where the XMAX scores. It scores because:

  • It is cheap, really cheap.
  • Whilst it doesn’t produce the same volume of aerosol as a PAX 2, its enough.
  • There is no connection between the electronic gizzards and the airflow.
  • Any excess moisture or dribble will not touch the delicate electronics.
  • It is easy and simple to use.
  • It produces better results than loose leaf vapourisers costing 10 times more than the XMAX

 

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IQOS – The view of a vaper

iQOS logo

Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to try an early iteration of a heat-not-burn device. It wasn’t particularly good, but the technology intrigued me. Being a vaper, I wasn’t sure how I would view the product itself, but I know that vaping isn’t for everyone so having another alternative can only be a good thing, right?

Nifty box

I’m not entirely sure if PMI chose the name (IQOS) out of deference to Apple but, they did make sure that the presentation was good.

The IQOS all snug inside its box

What’s in the Box?

All the handy bits and pieces

Tucked under the product tray containing the IQOS pocket charger and the holder are the accessories. Mains adaptor for the USB charging cable, a cleaning device and a bunch of cleaning sticks. Oh, and a manual; which isn’t particularly clear on certain points which I’ll come back to.

Out of the box the pocket charger has approximately 50% charge which means you can get cracking immediately – if, like me, you’re the impatient sort.

Unfortunately, my very first try wasn’t all that successful. Partly because I’m impatient, but mostly because I was an idiot bloke that didn’t read the manual. You see I popped the HEET stick into the holder, pressed the button and waited for it to be ready. I took a few puffs and accidentally hit the button again essentially turning the device off.

This caused a minor problem as the device wouldn’t turn on again. I then didn’t take the HEET out correctly which left the plug of tobacco impaled on the heating blade. I later learned – through ‘reading’ the manual – that removal of a HEET requires the upper part of the holder to be pulled up, thereby lifting the entire HEET (tobacco plug included) off the heating blade.

The sleek IQOS holder and a HEET

The HEETS are, essentially, mini cigarettes. Unlike cigarettes, they don’t contain a lot of tobacco, which is, in fact, entirely the point. Unlike a cigarette, HEETS aren’t meant to be set on fire. The whole idea is that the special tobacco plug is heated to a specific temperature to give the user the taste and sensation of smoking, but without all the other stuff that comes from setting tobacco on fire.

IQOS in all its glory. Covered with grubby fingerprints too.

Using the device felt a little strange at first as I was inclined to try and hold it like a traditional cigarette; which you can’t. Not quite anyway.

Is it any good?

IQOS HEETS, Amber and Turquoise

I was lucky enough to be able to sample two of the HEETS ‘flavours’ – Yellow (roughly equivalent to Marlboro Light) and Turquoise (Menthol) and both tasted as I expected. The Yellow HEETS were smooth and full flavoured, while the Turquoise HEETS weren’t overpoweringly menthol (like some traditional cigarettes can be).

Both offered a warm tobacco taste which left a mild ‘just smoked’ aftertaste which wasn’t unpleasant.

During use, there is a mild tobacco scent which I found to be rather agreeable. However, I did notice a one thing missing. When smoking, there is a faintly audible cue when taking a puff, this isn’t present when using the IQOS. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just something I noticed. After all, IQOS isn’t meant to be an exact like-for-like to smoking, it is an alternative to smoking.

Final Thoughts

A few points to make here. During use, the flavour of the HEET does diminish after half a dozen puffs (give or take), and in some cases, it did taste slightly odd towards the end of the 6 minute (or 14 puff) cycle. This sensation seemed to become more prevalent the more HEET sticks used from a single pack of 20. With a freshly cleaned (or brand new) device, the taste lasts a lot longer.

With smoking, there is a necessity to set aside time to smoke a whole cigarette. The time taken does, of course, vary between individuals. With the IQOS, there’s a set limit of 6 minutes (or 14 puffs whichever comes first). Some smokers take longer than 6 minutes; especially when smoking roll-your-own tobacco which, when left unattended in the ashtray, goes out after a while – unlike a pre-made cigarette which just burns down to the filter.

The battery life of the pocket charger is very good. I managed to get three days of continual use from mine before I had to put it on charge. Sadly, a full charge for the pocket charger takes about 90 minutes. But that is offset by the fact that a full charge can last a few days – dependant on the use pattern.

Cleaning the IQOS holder is a bit of a faff. There are two options – the cleaning brush or the cleaning solution soaked q-tip. I found that using the brush followed by a q-tip rather than one or the other, gave me a better experience post-clean. It is recommended that the holder is cleaned after 20 HEETS are used, and there is a notification LED on the pocket charger to remind you to clean it.

The IQOS does a very good job of mimicking smoking in more ways than one. The slight smell during use, the taste and the sensation all contribute to a solid experience. Some may find cleaning the holder a pain, but it is, unfortunately, necessary to maintain the experience.

A surprisingly good experience at that.

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Surprise result for PMI in New Zealand iQOS case

iQOS case

If you follow the news on heated tobacco products you’ll probably have noticed that Heat not Burn hasn’t been having an easy ride in every market. Despite the spectacular success of iQOS in Japan, where it’s now taken over more than 15% of the cigarette market in just two years, some governments have decided they’d rather keep collecting cigarette taxes than give smokers the option of switching to a lower-risk product.

One recent example of this was New Zealand. Although the country has been making some (uneven) progress towards legalising vaping, the Ministry of Health seems to have taken a strong dislike to iQOS. Philip Morris International started selling the iQOS device, and the Heets for it, in early 2017; the ministry’s response was take them to court for violating a law that was originally intended to ban chewing tobacco.

According to the Ministry of Health, PMI were in breach of Section 29 of the Smoke-free Environments Act. This bans the import, sale or advertising of any tobacco product intended “for chewing, or for any other oral use (other than smoking)”, and technically Heets do come under it – they’re not smoked, because the tobacco doesn’t burn, but they are meant for oral use. However, the law was written in 1990 when HnB didn’t seem to have any future, and PMI have been arguing that it was never intended to apply to products like Heets. They only come under the law because of a technicality, and the company’s position was that it made no sense to use the Smoke-free Act to ban the product.

A lost cause?

The case finally came to trial on 5 March, and following three days of claims and evidence most people assumed that the judgement would go in favour of the Ministry of Health. It’s been a long time since a tobacco company actually won a case brought by a health organisation, after all. iQOS doesn’t benefit from the increasing support for e-cigarettes, either; it’s different enough that many people – even some vaping advocates – still think it’s basically a cigarette.

Well, some people were in for a big surprise. In fact I confess I was one of them. When the judgement was released on Tuesday my jaw hit the floor just as hard as everyone else’s.

Because PMI won the case.

That’s right; the District Court at Wellington rejected a charge laid by its own government’s health department, and awarded victory to a tobacco company. This now means that PMI can carry on selling Heets in New Zealand – and potentially makes iQOS the most accessible product for any Kiwi smoker who wants to move to a safer option.

The previous government had pledged to legalise nicotine e-liquids, but the Labour-Green coalition that replaced it has been dragging its feet on the issue. That means vapers in New Zealand have to import their own liquid from abroad. This can be an expensive and complicated process, and it’s likely to deter many smokers from trying to switch. With Heets once more legally on sale they now have HnB as an easier option.

So what happened?

It’s not clear why the Ministry of Health decided to go after Heets, but when they did they chose to use a technical legal argument based on the strict wording of the law. The Smoke-free Environments Act makes clear references to “any tobacco product” intended for “chewing, or any other oral use (other than smoking).” A Heet is certainly a tobacco product; processed tobacco is the main ingredient in the filling. It’s also intended for oral use – the vapour it produces is inhaled through the mouth – and, because there’s no combustion involved, it’s obviously not smoking.

It’s worth taking a moment to think about that. The health ministry wanted to ban a new, reduced-risk tobacco product because it isn’t smoking. If the Heet was just a new brand of cigarette that would have been fine with New Zealand’s government; their problem was that it wasn’t a cigarette, but something specifically designed to be much safer.

Luckily, PMI’s defence team weren’t shy about pointing that out. They reminded the court that the section of the law was written specifically to ban chewing tobacco, which is linked to mouth cancer – not to suppress a product designed to remove almost all the harm of smoking. The defence also brought a strong expert witness who explained just how safe HnB is compared to smoking. The health ministry tried to claim that this was irrelevant, but the judge disagreed.

The exact tool the judge used to demolish the case was a legal rule called Ejusdem Generis. This says that if particular words describe a class of thing, then any general words that follow it are confined to the same class of thing. So, where the law starts off by mentioning “chewing” then says “or for any other oral use”, it still only means chewing. Based on that the court agreed with PMI and threw out the case; in the process they rebuked the Ministry of Health, telling them that trying to ban a safer product was the exact opposite of what the law was trying to achieve.

 

So what does this mean for heated tobacco products? It’s actually hard to overstate what good news it is. Obviously it’s good for smokers in New Zealand, who once again have iQOS available as an alternative to cigarettes. The big impact, though, is the precedent it sets. Other health ministries who might be thinking about banning Heets will now have to look at this case and consider the possibility that, if they try it, they might just lose.

Health organisations don’t lose often; that’s a sad fact about the nanny state times we live in. This result is going to send shockwaves rippling around the world. A tobacco company has actually won, using the argument that their product is going to help public health and should be protected from misguided laws. Let’s hope the message gets across in other countries too; smokers need more options, not more knee-jerk bans.