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E-cigs don’t work everywhere – Heat not Burn does

e-cigs

I’m a freelance writer, and I love e-cigarettes. Since I switched to vaping my desk isn’t cluttered with smelly ashtrays anymore, and I don’t have to brush ash off my keyboard twice a day. I spend most of the day at my PC, so I can keep a charger on the desk for my batteries and there’s a nice long USB cable for pass-through mods. The top shelf in one side of the desk holds an assortment of e-liquids; in my job, vaping works perfectly.

On the other hand, before I became a writer I spent years in the British Army. Like many soldiers I smoked, and I remember a lot of early mornings happily puffing away in some cold, wet forest. No matter how soaked, frozen and miserable you get, a cigarette is a reliable way to inject some very welcome morale into your life.

The thing about cigarettes, of course, is that they couldn’t be simpler. You take one out the pack, stick the brown bit in your mouth and set fire to the other end. Unless you’ve let them get soaked, or you’ve sat on the packet and squashed them (a waterproof tobacco tin will avoid both these issues) they’re guaranteed to work.

War is hell – for e-cigs

But how is an e-cig going to cope with the hardships of a soldier’s life? All the liquid is probably going to leak out, turning the contents of your pocket into a slippery mess. The tank’s probably going to get broken the first time you trip over a stump in the darkness and fall flat on your face. The ability of most box mods to survive being soaked with rainwater is pretty dubious. Worst of all, your batteries aren’t going to last forever and there won’t be any USB ports in the tree you’re living under. E-cigarettes are great as long as you’re surrounded by civilisation, but they’re not going to work out in the field.

It isn’t just soldiers, either. What if your workplace is the deck of a trawler? The first wave that knocks you down, and leaves you flailing around in a pool of seawater and fish guts, is going to destroy every electronic device in your pockets. Let’s not even start thinking about rebuilding a coil in a cramped cabin that’s rolling through sixty degrees.

So it’s pretty obvious that there are some people who e-cigarettes just aren’t going to work for. But does that mean they’re doomed to a lifetime of smoking? Not so fast. There’s probably a heat not burn product that’s going to work just fine.

What’s the solution?

Last month I visited Philip Morris International’s research facility at Neuchatel in Switzerland, where they’re making the Heets that feed their iQOS device as well as working on the next generation of HnB technology. It was a very interesting visit – I’ve already discussed their latest research on safety – and left me feeling very optimistic about the future of heated tobacco products. There were some lively discussions, too, and during one of these I explained that I’d been a soldier for a long time and, based on my experiences, I didn’t think iQOS was going to be much use in the field. The PMI rep didn’t even blink. “We know,” she said. “That’s why we’re working on three other products.”

One of those products is the Mesh e-cigarette, which is already on the market. I have one, and it’s pretty good; the Mesh is an extremely simple and fairly sturdy gadget, and its disposable cartridges are more compact and probably a lot tougher than cigarettes, but if you’re doing hard work outdoors in bad weather it has the same drawbacks as any other e-cig; it isn’t very waterproof, and it needs charged a couple of times a day. Then there’s a completely different product in the development pipeline that isn’t HnB, but isn’t an e-cig either; it uses a chemical reaction to create a nicotine-containing vapour. The interesting thing about this is that it doesn’t need any batteries, so it might be a good solution for people who don’t have regular access to a charger; that depends on how robust it is, and I can’t comment on that because I haven’t seen one yet.

That’s three of PMI’s Smokefree nicotine products. The fourth one is a heat not burn product that uses the same concept as RJ Reynolds’s Revo. It’s a disposable item that contains a stick of processed tobacco and a charcoal pellet that provides the heat. All you have to do is light the pellet and puff away.

Revo isn’t really a new product; it’s basically a rebranded version of the 1990s Eclipse, which was a complete flop. Reynolds relaunched it under the new name because they decided the market had moved enough to make it viable this time around, but it’s still basically the same thing. I’m not very familiar with it but I do have some doubts about how effective it is.

So far, at least, those doubts don’t apply to the PMI product, which the company are currently calling Platform 2. It works on the same principle as the Revo, but it’s a completely new design. That gives PMI a chance to iron out any bugs, and hopefully come up with something that delivers a consistent vape with no risk of accidentally burning the tobacco.

Keeping it simple

The benefits of this sort of design are obvious. If you can manage to smoke, you can use a HnB product like Revo or Platform 2. It works exactly like a cigarette; you just have to take it out the pack, put it in your mouth and light it. There’s nothing fiddly to play with, it doesn’t need electricity and it’s no more vulnerable to the weather than a cigarette. In fact it’s probably less likely to get damaged by water; Revo has a metal foil tube to hold the tobacco, which is a lot more waterproof than cigarette paper.

A lot of smokers have switched to vaping – probably over ten million by now – but it’s not going to work for everyone. Improved technology will eventually increase battery life and make the hardware easier to use and more robust, but it’s not likely e-cigs will ever be as simple as a traditional cigarette. Heat not burn has the potential to solve that problem, because the basic principle – get some tobacco and heat it – is a lot more flexible. Inside a few years there will be HnB products that anyone can use, no matter how tough their job is.

iqos and 60 heets special offer

 

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Heat Not Burn Safety Update

Heat Not Burn Safety Update

Over the last year we’ve seen a lot of progress for heat not burn products, with the iQOS now available in several countries including right here on this website and a few new devices set to be released soon. The market looks like it could be on the brink of some serious growth, and within a few years HnB could have made as big a dent in smoking rates as e-cigarettes already have.

There’s one thing still missing, though. If heated tobacco products are really going to grab a sizable percentage of the cigarette market it’s important that their makers can show they’re safer than smoking. As we’ve mentioned before, common sense tells us they pretty much have to be a lot safer, because the tobacco isn’t being burned, but there’s a distinct lack of actual data. Isn’t anyone doing the research on this? It turns out the answer is yes.

Of course, you won’t see this research appearing in the medical journals just yet, because it’s actually being carried out on behalf of the tobacco industry. Philip Morris International have invested more time and money in HnB than anyone else, and a lot of that has gone towards looking into how much risk can be removed by switching from lit to heated tobacco. Some world-class laboratories have been asked to investigate how HnB is working and what that means in terms of health effects. Last week Heat not Burn UK got a chance to visit the Cube, PMI’s European research HQ at Neuchatel in Switzerland, to find out what’s going on.

How hot is too hot?

By now everybody knows that smoking-related diseases aren’t caused by tobacco; it’s the combustion process that creates the worst toxins and cancer-causing substances. Tobacco-free herbal cigarettes aren’t any better for you than Benson & Hedges, because you’re still inhaling burning plants. However, PMI have found out that making a safe HnB product isn’t as simple as not setting fire to the tobacco.

The tip of a lit cigarette, between puffs, is at between 600°C and 800°C; when you take a drag on it this rises to over 900°C. That’s the sort of temperature tobacco burns at. However, at much lower temperatures it goes through a process called pyrolysis, where it’s being broken down by heat but not actually burning. Pyrolysis starts at around 350°C, much lower than combustion temperatures – and pyrolyzing tobacco still gives off a lot of nasty chemicals. Not as much as burning it, of course, but probably still more than you really want to be inhaling.

So the trick to safe HnB is to heat the tobacco to just below the point where pyrolysis begins. If you were wondering why iQOS heats its sticks to 350°C when tobacco doesn’t start burning until hundreds of degrees above this temperature, now you know. PMI have opted for the highest safe temperature, where there’s little or no pyrolysis going on but the tobacco is still hot enough to generate a decent vapour. Because HnB products like iQOS, Glo and PAX 2 are electronically controlled it’s easy to get them to produce a constant temperature and avoid pyrolyzing or burning the tobacco.

Tracking the toxins

Obviously the big question is, what effect does HnB have on the levels of chemicals you’re inhaling? It’s unrealistic to insist on zero chemicals, because many of the toxins in cigarette smoke are very common substances. For example, smoke contains high levels of formaldehyde – but human bodies contain formaldehyde, too. Our metabolism produces it, and there are detectable levels of it in exhaled breath. What we’re looking for are levels that might not be zero, but are much lower than you’d get from a cigarette.

To test this, PMI analysed the smoke from a reference cigarette – this is a standardised cigarette used for lab testing – then compared it with the vapour from their two HnB products. One of these is iQOS; the other, known as Platform 2, hasn’t been released yet but works in a different way. What they found was that for every chemical they tested, levels were dramatically reduced in both HnB products. The highest levels were for ammonia, with iQOS having about half the level of a cigarette and Platform 2 around 40%. Is that enough to worry about? No; even cigarette smoke doesn’t have anywhere near enough ammonia to be an issue. For the other chemicals they tested levels were reduced by at least 80%, and in most cases 90 to 95%. Overall it looks like HnB eliminates more than 90% of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

One impressive point about PMI’s research is that they’ve been extremely thorough. Different agencies have different lists of chemicals in smoke that concern them. For example the FDA have a list of 28 different substances; the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s list has fifteen. To be on the safe side, Philip Morris have simply combined everyone else’s lists; they test for fifty-eight different chemicals – far more than anyone else does.

Attention to detail

PMI aren’t just measuring what’s in the vapour; they’re also testing smokers who’ve switched to their HnB products to see how they compare with people who’ve either quit entirely or continued to smoke. What they’re doing here is looking to see if switchers’ blood chemistry is more like a smoker or a quitter. For every chemical they’ve tested – including carbon monoxide, benzene and acrolein – HnB users either have identical levels to smokers who’ve quit entirely or (for acrolein) the level is slightly higher than a quitter but much lower than a smoker.

At Heat not Burn UK we might not be scientists, but we do know how science is supposed to be done. The research that’s being carried out on the health effects of HnB is very good science. It’s extremely thorough and detailed. The actual analysis is being carried out by independent labs, which should deal with any accusations of bias. PMI are being completely open about the experimental methods, so anybody who has doubts can replicate the research themselves.

Why so modest?

That leaves one question: With all this research to back them up, why aren’t PMI shouting from the rooftops about how safe HnB really is? Most likely that’s down to an understandable wariness of being sued. If they say that iQOS is 90% safer than smoking, and then at some point in the future evidence shows it’s only 89.9% safer, how long is it going to be until swarms of Californian lawyers descend on them with a fistful of class action suits? Not long, probably.

So, for now, they’re playing a cautious game. The data is there, and steadily growing. Sooner or later it will be presented to some government agency, probably the FDA, and they’ll confirm that these products are much safer than smoking. That’s when the manufacturers will start publicising it. Until then we’re just going to have to rely on common sense.

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iQos Review – How good is Heat not Burn anyway?

iQOS review

Over the last two years Heat not Burn products have gone from being an experiment on sale in a few selected test markets to an increasingly mainstream product. Several devices are on sale or in consumer testing, and public awareness of the technology is growing fast. There are quite a few exciting systems out there now, but the global leader has to be Philip Morris’s iQOS.

iqos and 60 heets special offer

iQOS is the latest incarnation of PMI’s heated tobacco stick concept. The basic idea is that a short, cigarette-like tube containing a filter and processed tobacco is inserted into the end of a small electronic device. The device heats the tobacco to around 350°C, hot enough to release a vapour but not to cause combustion.

Early versions of the technology didn’t do very well in testing, but modern batteries and charging systems have made a huge difference. The technology has caught up with PMI’s ambitions for the concept, and the new version is proving to be a big success. Japan was an early test market, and iQOS has already built up a 13% share of the country’s tobacco sales. Even better, almost all users were already smokers and over 70% of them have completely switched to iQOS.

Heat not Burn UK first managed to test an iQOS at the Global Forum on Nicotine in June 2016. That was only a short trial of a few sticks – not the best sticks, either – but it was enough to prove to us that this was a device with a lot of potential. Since then we’ve had a lot more experience of iQOS, including a visit to PMI’s research centre in Neuchatel to see how the tobacco-filled Heets are made. In fact this site is now offering some great deals on iQOS and Heets.

IQOS internal diagram

Introducing iQOS

iQOS itself is a very compact and sleek device. It’s much smaller than a modern e-cigarette, roughly the size of the battery from a vape pen. It’s also simple; there’s just an LED and a button. A hole at one end lets you insert a Heet. This isn’t built for hobbyist vapers, who love being able to fiddle and customise; it’s aimed at smokers who want something that’s as close as possible to being as simple as a cigarette.

The device feels solid and well made, and the body is covered in a soft, comfortable rubberised finish. It also comes with a personal charging case; after each session the iQOS slips neatly into the case, and the case’s battery tops up the charge in the device. That’s an essential feature, as we’ll see.

Heets – the cigarette replacement

The iQOS, for all its neat efficiency, is just a sophisticated heater. What really makes the system work is the Heets you feed iQOS with. These look like short cigarettes (although they’re very different inside) and come in packs of 20, so buying them is a familiar experience for any smoker. In fact so is handling them; apart from the length they look and feel exactly like cigarettes – so much that, five years after quitting smoking, almost every time I take a Heet out of the pack I instinctively stick it in my mouth.

Don’t do that. Instead, insert it into the hole at the top of the iQOS. It looks like this might be fiddly, but in fact the hole is shaped to make Heets easy to insert. There’s a bit of resistance for the last half inch, because a blade at the bottom of the hole will be slicing into the plug of tobacco. This blade heats up to create the vapour.

Once the Heet is in place, just press the button to turn it on. As soon as the LED starts blinking green, the heater is active. In less than a minute it will stop blinking and glow steadily. At that point all you have to do is start puffing. After ten or twelve puffs the LED will blink again, and the device will automatically turn itself off.

Now selling IQOS and HEETS

Does it work?

The big question, of course, is what it’s like to use. Can it really replicate the feel of smoking an actual cigarette? This is obviously going to depend on how much flavour, throat hit and nicotine the vapour provides, as well as how much vapour there actually is. The good news here is that iQOS can indeed replicate a cigarette pretty well; it’s certainly close enough to be a satisfying substitute.

I did have a few doubts after my first trial in Poland. I used to smoke Marlboro Red, and then when they became too weak and bland for me I switched to West Red, a terrifyingly harsh German brand. I was never a fan of light or menthol cigarettes, so of course the only Heets available for my first iQOS experience were mild menthols. That meant I found it less than satisfying, but I gave the device itself the benefit of the doubt and blamed it on the sticks.

It turns out I was right to do that, because when I next tried iQOS there were Amber Heets available; they’re a much stronger, plain tobacco flavour that’s quite close to a Marlboro. At that point I was totally convinced; this device works. The vapour it produces is rich and warm, there’s enough of it to satisfy a smoker (although it doesn’t compare to a modern high-powered e-cigarette) and it doesn’t leave much of a lingering tobacco smell either.

The best thing of all is how closely using an iQOS mimics smoking. Once you have a Heet in and warmed up, all you have to do is pick it up and puff. There’s no fire button to worry about, and no tank to refill. It also feels right. Of course, it’s larger and heavier than a cigarette – but it’s close enough that you can hold it like one. The filter on a Heet also feels exactly like a cigarette filter; in fact replicating the feel is really the only reason it’s there. You don’t need to get used to the feel of a hard metal or plastic mouthpiece.

iQOS holder

The verdict

Overall, iQOS is a very impressive device. A lot of time and resources have gone into developing it, to get it as close to the smoking experience as possible. Its battery life is short, but the charging case gets round that easily. Using it is simple, efficient and satisfying. If you need any proof of that, just look at how many converts it’s picking up. iQOS is now on sale in over twenty countries, and there are already millions of happy users all over the world. If you want to quit smoking, but e-cigs don’t do it for you, this clever heated tobacco product is the way ahead.

Want to make the change today from years of smoking combustible cigarettes? Then click the banner below to be taken to our UK based online store where we are now selling the new iQOS starter kit complete with 60 HEETS for just £79!

iqos and 60 heets special offer

This review, originally written in July 2016, has been revised and updated because we have a lot more experience of iQOS now.

Also heat not burn technology is always innovating, and so are we. This unit has now been superseded by the new iQOS 2.4 Plus, and we have an excellent review of the new unit right here. We are no longer selling this 2.4 unit but we are selling the new 2.4 Plus.