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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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What growth path can we expect for heat-not-burn in new markets?

Growth

The explosive growth of heat-not-burn products in Japan and Korea, which has taken a huge chunk out of the market for traditional cigarettes, has everyone wondering where else we might see that happen. No one knows the answer for sure, of course, but there are a few patterns that seem fairly safe to predict.

 

Modeling work I did about the uptake of e-cigarettes a few years ago (example) suggests that the uptake of a low-risk tobacco product will have two distinct periods of rapid growth. The first is caused by pent-up demand. Before the product was introduced, there were people who wanted it, though they did not know this yet, of course. As soon as it was introduced, and knowledge about it became widespread, they started buying it. This causes an initial uptick in consumption rather than steady growth along the lines of “X new consumers per week, every week, for a year.”

 

Of course, that increase might not stick. Japan Tobacco introduced an alternative product, Zero Style Mint, in 2010 which was superficially like an e-cigarette or heat-not-burn device. However it basically just consisted of inhaling room-temperature air through a tube past some processed tobacco. This delivered neither enough nicotine nor a sufficiently smoking-like experience to be appealing to smokers. Sales spiked (pent-up demand for an alternative to smoking) and then crashed (almost no one actually liked it). Heat-not-burn has cleared that hurdle. Lots of smokers in Japan and elsewhere really like it.

 

The perfect low-risk substitute for many smokers would be something that was exactly like a cigarette in all ways (aesthetics, appearance and other factors that contribute to cultural acceptability, delivery of nicotine and other psychoactive chemicals, price) except that it posed little health risk, and as a possible added bonus did not make such a mess. Heat-not-burn checks most of those boxes.

 

Of course some smokers actively embrace contrasts with cigarettes, such as the variety of flavors available for e-cigarettes. Some are not be willing to accept any variation on their beloved cigarettes in pursuit of lower risk. But for many, heat-not-burn is close enough (in terms of what they want) and enough lower risk to make that worthwhile.

 

After the initial spike and after the acceptability hurdle is cleared, we can expect a period of slower growth until a particular critical mass of consumers is reached. My modeling was built around the assumption (correct, I still believe) that the “cultural acceptability” hurdle is one of the largest. Someone’s culture, in this case, is a combination of the people who influence him the most (relatives, friends, patrons of the same pubs) and overall popularity in whatever he considers “his” population to be (everyone in the country, people in the region, people in his socioeconomic class). If someone has no friends who use a product and only a tiny portion of the population does, it takes greater determination and confidence for him to make a switch, and he might not even know about the product. If the new product seems just as normal as regular smoking in his culture, acceptability and knowledge are no longer barriers.

 

My modeling suggested that for almost any parameterization (i.e., input assumptions about the distribution of preferences and how people interact) there would come a point when slow growth hit a critical mass. The next few people who switched would be enough to raise the cultural acceptability enough to ensure that even more people quickly switched, and so on. This would feed-forward, creating a rapid rise until most of those who have not switched really do not want to.

 

I did this in the context of e-cigarettes, which had a rather larger cultural acceptability and knowledge hurdle than heat-not-burn. The better early generation products were sufficiently strange and challenging that the pent-up demand spike was modest. The easiest cigarette-like product were not very satisfying, so suffered the Zero Style Mint problem. For almost all smokers, this was not the alternative they were looking for, but just did not have yet. The second phase of growth in those models was much greater, as it seemed to be in real-life where vaping really took hold (particularly England).

 

Heat-not-burn will probably not play out the same way. The first growth phase ought to be a lot bigger for reasons already noted. That, however, means that it will comprise a larger portion of the total potential market, reducing the potential size of the second fast growth phase before everyone who is a good candidate for switching has switched.

 

So, how many is that? And what happens after the second period of rapid growth? Will it be indefinite continuing inroads into the smoking market, or a hard ceiling?

 

That depends. Indeed, that is the answer to every other quantitative question you might be asking here (e.g., How big is each period of high growth? How long between the various phases?) Unfortunately, to answer any of those requires having great precision in model inputs. It is fairly clear that those modeling the market for heat-not-burn have no idea, as evidenced by the irrational spike in PMI’s market capitalization due to the iQOS’s early success in Japan, followed by a crash when investors discovered that the initial growth phase does not continue forever (a bit more about that here).

 

Switching patterns can vary wildly. For example, it took decades before smokers Norway, which shares a great deal of cultural influence with Sweden, started to switch to snus in droves. Why the delay? Snus has been popular and mainstream in Sweden for almost half a century and has long been more popular than smoking. But Norway only saw a major shift a few years ago. Meanwhile, Finland and Denmark, where the influence might acted sooner, were hobbled by the European Union ban on snus (Sweden has an exemption and Norway is not in the EU), which is one of a whole different set of policy variables.

 

Still, it seems safe to draw a few conclusions. Japan was probably the best-case-scenario for pent-up demand for heat-not-burn. Smoking is popular among relatively well-educated and well-off people who are strong candidates for switching. Adding a bit of tech gadgetry to a stick is not exactly going to be seen as odd in such a tech-forward population. Meanwhile, e-cigarettes are banned and snus was always a cultural non-starter. In a population where e-cigarettes have already grown in popularity there is less pent-up demand. Some vapers might switch, of course, but most have settled in to what they do. Thus, we will probably not see as bit an initial growth phase for heat-not-burn sales in new markets.

 

However, it seems likely that there is a much higher ceiling for uptake compared to e-cigarettes, because heat-not-burn better checks all of the boxes. This is not based on any modeling, but rather is the type of observation that is needed as an input into the modeling. It is possible that a large fraction of smokers in some countries could switch over the course of five or ten years.

 

However, both heat-not-burn and e-cigarettes fail to check one of the boxes in most of the world: These tech products are only price competitive because of the high prices for cigarettes in rich countries (which include high taxes, which have usually been lower for low-risk products in markets where they took off). Cigarettes are a simple product whose price reflects the local cost-of-living like food prices do, and the same is true for smokeless tobacco. But high tech imports will have prices that reflect their higher real resource costs and the higher costs of doing business where they are made. Thus, the idea of migrating more than a small fraction of the world’s smokers to heat-not-burn seems like fantasy for the foreseeable future.

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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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Wikipedia – encyclopaedic or idiotic?

Wikipedia

Everyone’s familiar with Wikipedia – “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit”. It sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? A vast, sprawling reference work that everyone in the world can add their knowledge to, with administrators and fact-checking mechanisms to make sure nobody’s contaminating it with nonsense. In theory at least, it should end up containing all the open-source information in the world and be constantly checked for accuracy by thousands of dedicated users.

The trouble is that’s not exactly how it works. If the topic of an article isn’t controversial, Wikipedia is generally pretty reliable. Apart from the odd intentional vandalism or clumsy editing by a well-meaning newcomer, both of which usually get removed pretty quickly, articles about places, objects or anything else straightforward tend to be accurate and informative. I do research every day and I regularly use Wikipedia; the articles themselves give a good overview, and there’s a handy list of references at the bottom so you can dig deeper and verify facts.

Where it gets complicated is when you start dealing with any subject that’s at all controversial. That’s when special interests slither out of the woodwork, whether it’s creationists, IRA supporters or political extremists, and start gaming Wikipedia’s tortuous rules to push their point of view.

The whole idea of Wikipedia is that everyone can edit, but in practice that’s not how it works. Apart from a few basic principles the rules for resolving disagreements are made by committee, and we all know the sort of person who likes to join unpaid committees. Unsurprisingly there’s now a mass of rules, guidelines, essays and procedures that would take a lifetime to read, so of course nobody reads them. That means nobody understands them except a hard core of dedicated fanatics, and this brings us neatly to the subject of tobacco harm reduction.

Meet the Medics

I used to be a pretty active Wikipedia editor, until I got banned a couple of years ago. Officially I got banned because I was paid to edit an article, but this isn’t actually against Wikipedia’s rules. The real reason was that I upset the key people in Wikiproject Medicine, a group that’s supposedly responsible for ensuring the accuracy of medical articles on Wikipedia. Because e-cigarettes can potentially have an impact on health, WikiMed has ruled that any articles on them have to obey the stringent rules they’ve created for medical content, and who gets to decide whether they obey those rules or not? Wikiproject Medicine, of course!

This is where the problems begin, because all the leading figures in WikiMed are fanatical opponents of tobacco harm reduction. The project is led by “Doc James” – Dr James Heilman – a socially inept GP from the wilds of rural Canada. Heilman is notable for his poor grasp of logic, even poorer grasp of the English language and a stubborn inability to admit that he might ever be wrong about anything. We’re talking about a guy who thought “A cup of coffee is drug” was a winning argument. Heilman is a complete idiot.

And, like any complete idiot who finds himself in charge of a committee, he’s assembled a collection of even worse idiots to help him out. There’s a Norwegian medical student who can’t spell “cigarette” – I am not making this up – and a few other people who’ve only escaped having personality disorders because they don’t have personalities. However the worst of the lot, by a long way, is the individual known as QuackGuru.

I don’t know what, if any, medical expertise QuackGuru has. He seems to have started on Wikipedia as an opponent of “alternative medicines,” an objective that I’m fine with, but somewhere along the way he became Doc James’s most devoted follower and, just to round off his uselessness, an anti-vaping zealot. On top of that he’s terrible at actually editing. His logic and English are both even worse than Heilman’s, and he has a maddening habit of just repeating the same obviously wrong statements over and over again. He also violates Wikipedia’s rules with monotonous regularity, and although he does get the occasional short suspension – usually just from specific topics – Heilman’s influence has protected him from the permanent ban he richly deserves.

A couple of years ago, until I was banned, I and a few others fought a long battle against the WikiMed clique to try to add some semblance of reality to the article on electronic cigarettes. This is unrelentingly negative; at one point a single paper by notorious Californian aircraft mechanic Stanton Glantz was referenced more than all the other sources put together. QuackGuru was a major source of the problems on the page, blindly applying simplistic definitions of Wiki rules to exclude any references that were positive about vaping. In the end even Heilman couldn’t protect him anymore, and he was banned from editing the page for a few months, but by that time most of the pro-vaping editors had been banned or given up in disgust.

Now it’s all happening again at the Heat not Burn page. Nobody in their right mind would say that an iQOS is a medical device, but WikiMed have claimed authority over it on the basis that it can have health effects. Well, so can a bunch of other things WikiMed doesn’t bother with – guns, for example, or cars. Both of these kill a lot more people every year than HnB ever will, but for some reason they’re not seen as medical subjects. Vaping and HnB are still just about niche enough that Heilman and his little bunch of cranks can take over, though, and that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Looking at the edit history for the HnB page, two names dominate the list – Doc James and, even more so, QuackGuru. For example, on 2 February there were eight edits made to the page; one by Doc James, one by a bot and six by Quack. Out of the last 50 edits, Quack as made 21 – often in rapid strings of minor edits, aimed at correcting the one before but actually making things worse with every attempt.

The Idiots’ Playground

About the only good thing about Quack’s atrocious sentence structure is that it obscures some of the terrible information in the article itself. The lead section says “There is no reliable evidence that (HnB) products are any less harmful than other cigarettes,” so I was already boiling with rage by the second line of the article – because HnB products are not cigarettes (got that yet, Vic?).

The first section in the body of the article is called “Health Effects”, and in the best WikiMed tradition it starts with an ad hominem smear attack on anyone who disagrees with Doc James – “Claims of lowered risk or health benefits for heat-not-burn tobacco products are based on industry-funded research”. Well so what? Why does it matter who funded the research? What matters is that it’s been peer-reviewed (it has) and the experimental methods and analysis have been found to be reliable (they are). Every medicine on the shelf at your local chemist’s was certified as safe thanks to “industry-funded research”, but you never hear anyone complaining about that.

Moving on, another of Quack’s trademarks starts to show up – his touching belief that “a scientist stated” is the same thing as evidence. It doesn’t matter what some Spanish doctor believes; what matters is what the research shows, and all the research on Heat not Burn shows that users are exposed to vastly lower levels of toxic substances. The first rule of toxicology is “the dose makes the poison”, so reduced exposure to toxins means less risk of harm.

The final section is titled “Regulation”, but as there are few regulations in place for HnB yet WikiMed have padded it with quotes from anti-harm reduction extremists. They even shoehorned in Stan Glantz’s lunatic suggestion that safer tobacco products be banned until tobacco companies stopped selling actual cigarettes. It seems none of these idiots have learned the lessons of Prohibition and what happens when you ban something a significant percentage of your population enjoys. As for Glantz himself, the suggestion that the safer products should be banned has to raise serious questions about his mental health.

 

Wikipedia can be a great resource, but it’s also a flawed one. The way it’s run creates immense problems for anyone who disagrees with the self-appointed cliques that dominate many areas of the site. Unfortunately tobacco harm reduction is one of those areas, so the world’s most popular encyclopaedia is also one of its most dangerous sources of anti-THR propaganda.

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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.