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A chorus of idiots

Hold my light

Personally I’m a fan of Philip Morris International’s “Hold My Light” campaign. I’ve been advocating for tobacco harm reduction for years, and it’s good to see PMI throw their weight behind the same cause. Campaigns like this have the potential to make a huge difference, and I think they should be encouraged.

If you missed it, Hold My Light is a multimedia campaign aimed at encouraging smokers to give up and switch to reduced-harm products. The centrepiece was a four-page advert in the Daily Mirror, backed by a website, video and other promotional material, and the theme was the simple message that if you smoke, it’s better to quit. You wouldn’t think that would be at all controversial, would you? Well, you’d be wrong.

Despite Hold My Light saying exactly the same thing as they’ve been saying for decades, anti-tobacco activists have greeted the campaign with an absolute shitstorm of criticism and abuse. Starting the day of its launch, PMI have been bombarded with wild accusations and hysterical conspiracy theories from a collection of people who really should know better, but very obviously don’t.

Cancer Reasearch UK

Cancer craziness

First up, we have George Butterworth from Cancer Research UK. I’ve been involved with vaping advocacy since 2013, and I know that among vapers there are some pretty mixed feelings about CRUK. The charity does generally support vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, but on the other hand it also tends to back more restrictions on what we’re actually allowed to vape. CRUK was a big fan of the EU’s notorious Tobacco Products Directive, for example, despite being repeatedly warned the law would take a lot of very good products off the market. George Butterworth “welcomed” the TPD, claiming it would reassure vapers that e-cigs were safer than smoking. That’s an odd thing to say about a law that enforced health warnings on every e-cigarette and bottle of liquid.

Now he’s at it again. Butterworth, who’s been telling smokers to quit for years, is frothing with rage at PMI because they’re running a campaign telling smokers to quit. He accused the company of “staggering hypocrisy”, apparently because PMI still advertises its cigarettes in countries where people like Butterworth haven’t banned them from doing it.

What Butterworth doesn’t get is that PMI, being a publicly traded company, has a legal obligation to look after its investors’ money. That means selling products, of course, but you can’t expect someone who’s never had to make a profit to understand that. Instead he says “The best way Philip Morris could help people to stop smoking is to stop making cigarettes.”

Well, this just tells us that George Butterworth is a complete idiot. Hasn’t he learned anything from Prohibition, or the decades-long and totally failed war against drugs? If Philip Morris stop making cigarettes tomorrow, smokers will just buy them from somewhere else. If all tobacco companies stop making cigarettes tomorrow, say hello to a global explosion of organised crime that will make Al Capone and the Medellin cartel look about as serious as shoplifting a Kit Kat.

PMI can’t just stop making cigarettes, and anyone who understands anything about economics knows that. As long as a there’s a demand for cigarettes – and that isn’t going to change anytime soon – someone is going to be making and selling them. It can be regulated tobacco companies like PMI who pay tax and obey the law, or it can be organised crime. “Nobody” is just not an option.

Action on smoking and health

Pains in the ASH

And then there’s Action on Smoking and Health. I don’t like ASH at all; this is no secret. I’ve had a public run-in with their CEO, Deborah Arnott, and chest-poked a couple of her minions over their bullying, coercive approach to vaping, harm reduction and everything else they choose to stick their noses into. So guess what? Their reaction to the Hold My Light campaign annoys me too.

First out of the box to whine about the campaign was of course Debs Arnott herself, a sour-faced specimen with the general demeanour of a small-town traffic warden. Arnott claimed, bizarrely, that the campaign is an attempt to make an end run around the UK’s ban on tobacco advertising. I don’t have a marketing degree, but to me it seems like advertising a product by telling people to stop using it isn’t really the way ahead.

Arnott was followed by Hazel Cheeseman, ASH’s director of policy. I’ve met her too. More pleasant than Arnott but just as misguided, Cheeseman is an earnest-looking creature better suited to teaching small children than making policy. Describing the campaign as “simply PR puff,” Cheeseman suggested that if PMI were serious about achieving a smoke-free world they would stop opposing anti-smoking legislation that “will really help smokers quit”. What she means is nonsense like plain packs and display bans, which real-world evidence says don’t achieve anything, and of course ever-increasing punitive taxes.

Get real

Let’s get this straight: I have spoken to senior people at PMI (and other tobacco companies). I have been to the Cube at Neuchatel and seen the time and money PMI are investing in reduced-risk products. I have used those products myself, and I enjoy using them.

None of Cheeseman’s regulations would ever have stopped me smoking. Higher taxes? I’d just have bought cheaper food to free up some money. Graphic health warnings? I’d have worked to collect the full set, then frame them and hang them on my wall. Plain packs? I used a cigarette case anyway. These laws are all useless, because they’re written and lobbied for by nanny statist clowns who don’t understand how real people think.

The truth is that all the outrage being thrown at Hold My Light by the likes of Butterworth, Arnott and Cheeseman is just self-righteous indignation. How dare PMI break out of their bad guy stereotype! How dare they work towards the same goal as CRUK and ASH? And how very double dare they do it by selling products that real people actually enjoy using? At this point it doesn’t matter what PMI choose to do; it’s going to be wrong, simply because they’re the ones doing it. If they ignore harm reduction and just keep selling Marlboro they’re heartless and don’t care about their customers. If they try to persuade people to switch to safer products they’re hypocrites. Any time they do anything that satisfies one of their opponents’ demands, those demands will simply mutate into something new and probably ridiculous.

Well, I’m sick of people like Arnott and Butterworth sticking their oars in all the time. Who elected these people? What did they ever contribute to our lives beyond endless bitching and whining? By what right do they tell private citizens what they should or shouldn’t do? It’s time for them to shut up and live our own lives the way we choose.

One of the better choices we can make is to quit smoking. As much as I enjoyed smoking it really isn’t very good for you, so it makes sense to stop – just like PMI are saying. And if you want to do that by switching to one of PMI’s safer products, like iQOS or Mesh, don’t pay any attention to carping nobodies like Cheeseman; just go ahead and do it.

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The Lil Solid from KT&G – Exclusive Heat not Burn UK review!

Lil Solid

You probably remember that, a couple of months ago, the Heat not Burn UK team were very excited about the Lil from Korean Tobacco & Ginseng. As far as we know we did the first review of the Lil that wasn’t written in Korean, and I have to admit we were impressed by it. Maybe more than any other device we’ve tested, this was a genuine rival to the iQOS. Easy to use and pretty compact, compatible with Heets and delivering both decent battery life and a very good vape, the Lil is a really good package.

What really impressed us, though, was that by the time our Lil arrived a new version was already hitting the shelves in South Korea and racking up impressive sales figures. That’s a pretty quick product life cycle, especially for a major company. Vapers are used to products that come and go in a matter of a few months, because that market’s driven by small and medium independent companies that need to innovate constantly to stay in the game. I expect something similar to happen in the emerging independent HnB sector, with devices getting updated or replaced every few months.

It’s a bit different for the major tobacco companies, though. They have to be more cautious, because unlike a small engineering firm in Shenzhen they’re going to face major blowback if they get it wrong. That’s why products like iQOS and Glo spend a couple of years on sale in limited test markets before they get rolled out globally; the company has time to identify and iron out any issues, while limiting their exposure if there’s a problem.

KT&G don’t seem to be as cautious as other tobacco companies, though. We hadn’t even heard of the Lil until last October, and a few months later I had one in my hand. By that time its replacement was already on sale. KT&G might not be a global player, but they’re still a big company – and for a big company, releasing two generations of a product in less than a year is fast.

Anyway, back to the gadget. We said at the time that we’d get one for review as soon as we could, and now it’s here. In fact it’s been here for a few days, and now it’s been through our intensive Heat not Burn UK testing process. Read on to find out what’s new in South Korean heated tobacco products!

The Review

The new product is called the Lil Solid, and it comes packed in exactly the same neat cardboard box as its older brother. Strip off the plastic wrapping and lift the magnetically-closed side flap, and you’ll find the Lil Plus sitting securely in a plastic tray. That lifts out to reveal an instruction manual (which I didn’t read because a) it’s all in Korean and b) reading the instructions is for girls) and, under that, a flap which covers another tray packed with accessories.

After giving the Lil Solid itself a bit of a double take I pawed through all the extra bits, which are identical to what comes with the original Lil – a USB cable and plug, some alcohol-soaked cleaning sticks and a neat little brush. Everything feels high quality and does its job very well. So, finding no surprises there, I went back to the actual device.

I mentioned that I gave it a double take when I opened the box. That’s because we’d been led to believe the Lil Solid would be smaller and lighter. Well, it isn’t. In fact my first impression was that the only difference between the new Lil Solid and my old Lil was that the new one is blue.

On closer inspection this wasn’t quite the case. The Lil Solid is about an eighth of an inch shorter than its predecessor because the base, which was slightly convex on the Lil, has been flattened. That means you can stand it upright if you want. I was always trying this with the Lil and even succeeded a few times, but it falls over if you look at it funny. The new one is a lot more stable, which I like.

They’re the same size, but the blue one stands up.

Apart from that tiny difference, though, they’re exactly the same size. In fact, just to check, I swapped the top caps around and they fitted perfectly. So if you were hoping for a device that packed the Lil’s performance into a smaller package, this isn’t it. On the other hand that’s not a big deal, because it’s a pretty compact unit anyway.

Once I’d examined the Lil Solid in detail I found a few more small differences. The sliding button that covers the heating chamber is a lot less plasticky, for example. The power button now has a neat metal trim, and the LED indicator in it is hidden until it lights up. Overall it feels like a more polished product. The top plate is still stamped out of some copper-coloured alloy, but it’s neat enough and completely functional.

There’s obviously been some work done inside, too. One of the things I liked about the original Lil was how easy it was to clean (or remove tobacco plugs that had detached themselves when I removed a used stick). All you have to do is pull off the plastic shroud that surrounds the heating chamber, and the tobacco comes out with it. The Solid keeps this neat system, but while the Lil’s shroud will fit in the Solid, the Solid’s won’t fit the Lil. I’m not totally sure what the difference is, but KT&G clearly thought it needed a tweak.

iqos and 60 heets special offer

Testing!

Playing with shiny things is always fun, but the important thing is how it vapes. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect here. We’d heard that the Solid would have an upgraded heating element, but then we’d also heard it would be smaller and lighter; well, you already know how that turned out. Anyway I plugged it in to top up the charge – a full charge takes about an hour – then dug out some sticks and got vaping.

This time I had four packs of KT&G’s own Fiit sticks to play with. Three of them were different varieties of Change Up sticks, which have a breakable flavour capsule embedded in the filter. The names of the flavours were a bit unhelpful – Change Up, Change and Sparky – but I was able to guess what they were. Change is a fresh spearmint, Change Up is a classic menthol and Sparky seems to be a mint/citrus blend that really was very nice. The fourth pack, labelled Match, was a medium tobacco blend that tasted pretty similar to an Amber HEET.

With the battery fully charged and a Match in place, I held down the button until the device vibrated and then started my stopwatch. I was hoping that it would heat up faster than the Lil’s impressive 15 seconds, but it didn’t. In fact it took a couple of seconds longer, but I’m putting that down to my office being a hell of a lot colder than it was on those sweltering days in June when I reviewed the original. Just to verify that I tested the Lil too, and got the same result.

Anyway, 17 seconds after I pressed the button the Lil Solid vibrated again, letting me know it was at running temperature, and I took a vape. How was it? Well, it was exactly the same as the Lil, which is to say it was very good indeed. I’m going to repeat what I said about this device being at least as good as the iQOS. There’s plenty of vapour, and it’s warm, satisfying and richly flavoured. Interestingly, although I was never a fan of menthols when I smoked, I found myself really enjoying the Change Up sticks.

I soon found one change that’s been made to how the device works; while the Lil ran for four minutes or 14 puffs, the Lil Solid shuts down after three and a half minutes. That makes sense; by that time the stick is pretty much done anyway. Like the Lil it gives you a warning buzz ten seconds before it powers down, so you can grab a last dash of nicotine.

Battery life was pretty much exactly the same as the original Lil. A full charge was good for roughly one pack of sticks, which is respectable. Combined with its quick charging time, there’s no reason to be caught short during the day unless you’re a really heavy user. Of course I am a really heavy user, but I was testing it at my desk. Plugging it in for a few minutes between sticks kept the battery fully charged.

Cleaning was as easy as I’d expected. I did find the Solid a little more prone to pulling the tobacco out of used sticks as I removed them, but it’s so easy to clear the residue that I wasn’t really bothered.

Conclusions

After testing the Lil Solid I think I can see how KT&G managed to get it on the market so quickly. This isn’t really a new device; it’s basically the original Lil with the rough edges polished off. So is it worth getting one if you’re in Korea? Definitely! Yes, it’s a slightly tweaked Lil. That’s fine; the Lil is an excellent heat not burn system. The Solid is just as good, a bit more refined, and it’s still compatible with Heets. If for some reason the iQOS 2.4 Plus isn’t for you, this is a great alternative.

I might be the only person in the western world who can do this.
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IQOS review – The view of a vaper

iQOS review

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.

iqos and 60 heets special offer

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Vapor 2 Pro Series 7 vaporizer unboxing & review videos.

Vapor 2 Pro Series 7 vaporizer

Here we take a good look at the Vapor 2 Pro Series 7 vaporizer that is currently one of the leading loose leaf/herbal/e-liquid hybrid vaporizers.

In the first video the legendary Fergus unboxes the V2 Pro and in the second video is a review of the device when filled with his favourite rolling tobacco.

The vaporizer can also be used with illegal substances but we are a responsible blog so we will not be going down that avenue.

This can currently be bought for around the £120 mark here in the UK, it’s a lot different to the iQOS but there will be a market for this type of device no doubt about that.

Next up is our unboxing of the new PAX 3 so watch this space! This is the very latest upgrade over the PAX 2 that we have reviewed here before.


Video above is the unboxing of the Vapor 2 Pro Series 7.


Video above is the review of the Vapor 2 Pro Series 7.