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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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Meet the JUUL menace

JUUL

Here at Heat not Burn UK we’re always interested in new reduced-harm tobacco products. As you’d expect we’re most interested in HnB devices, but we’re more than happy to have a look at anything else that comes on the market. One gadget we’ve wanted to take a look at for a while (but can’t, because it’s illegal in the EU) is JUUL, an ultra-compact e-cigarette that’s taken a huge share of the US market.

You might have heard of JUUL; it’s certainly been in the news enough recently. If you haven’t heard of it before, it’s a very small and sleek e-cigarette that uses unique disposable pods. The pods don’t contain standard e-liquid; instead the juice is based on nicotine salts extracted from leaf tobacco. This is supposed to give a fast nicotine hit that’s more like a cigarette than a normal e-cig. It also has a 56mg/ml nicotine content, which is why we can’t get them in the EU.

The JUUL device is tiny, slim and rectangular; the pods snap into one end and then all you have to do is take a puff. It has an automatic switch that fires the coil every time you inhale, giving an experience that’s as close to a cigarette as you can get electronically. Each pod has about as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes and is designed to deliver 200 puffs, and the battery can be easily topped up with a USB charger.

So the JUUL is a pretty interesting little device, and it’s already picked up a hefty share of the US market – close to half of all e-cigs sold through convenience stores. That’s potentially a lot of smokers switching to a much safer alternative, so you’d expect the public health community to give it at least a cautious thumbs up, wouldn’t you? Oh wait; of course not. We all know not to expect much in the way of sense from public health types.

JUULmania

I’m not going to say that anti-JUUL hysteria has reached the level of the “Satanic Panic” in the 1980s, a frenzy of moral outrage about Satanic ritual abuse that saw dozens of nursery owners and employees arrested on suspicion of ritually sacrificing the children who had been entrusted to their care. It’s heading in that direction fast, though. There are daily articles from the USA, and they all follow a very similar – and totally ridiculous – theme.

According to the media, “Juuling” is an epidemic of nicotine use that’s threatening to turn the youth of America into addicts, zombies and probably communists. Schools are panicking at the thought of their students sneaking a puff in class, and nobody’s stopping to look at the actual evidence.

The panic seems to be caused by the design of the device itself. It’s very small, which the media usually translate into “easily hidden,” and thanks to its low power/high nicotine delivery mode, it doesn’t produce a lot of visible vapour. Although I’ve never tried one it seems like it would be the perfect stealth device, so I suppose it would be possible for kids to have a sly drag in class. What I’m not so sure about is why this is somehow worse than them smoking a crumpled Lambert & Butler behind the bike sheds at lunchtime.

What is JUUL anyway?

In any article on JUUL it’s obligatory to mention that “it looks like a USB stick”. It doesn’t, really; it’s longer and slimmer, and has a mouthpiece at one end – USB sticks don’t tend to have those, in my fairly broad experience of the things. Still, it’s small and oblong, so that’s close enough for the media and their public health puppet masters. Cue much hilarity.

In a classic case of over-reaction, one school district in Pennsylvania has banned real USB sticks from all its schools, apparently believing that this will stop students using an e-cig that vaguely resembles one. Officials from the district were falling over themselves to talk about how important this move was in preventing the JUUL epidemic; fortunately one maverick journalist asked them how many students in the district had actually been caught using a JUUL.

One.

That’s right; the school brought in a totally disproportionate ban, and splashed the story all over the media, because they caught one student with a JUUL. I’d say this was ridiculous, if it wasn’t pathetic. Or maybe it’s both. The point is, hardly any US high school students are using JUUL. Far more are using normal e-cigs, mostly basic vape pens, and almost all teens who vape are former smokers!

 

First do no harm

The whole point these clowns are missing with their moral panic is that the product they’re panicking about was specifically designed to help people who already smoke to move to a safer alternative. They should be grateful for this; thanks to JUUL and other e-cigs, teen smoking in the USA is at its lowest rate in a century. Kids who weren’t attracted to smoking aren’t going to be attracted to vaping, either: they’re not going to buy a JUUL. The target market is adults who smoke, and it’s worth pointing out that any kids who do get their hands on a JUUL are violating the company’s strict prohibition on sales to under-21s.

What worries us at Heat not Burn UK is that the same panic that’s grown up around JUUL is likely to spread to products like iQOS when the FDA finally gets round to allowing them onto the US market. I can predict the headlines already; they’re going to focus on the fact that all the leading HnB devices are produced by tobacco companies, and throw in some wild speculation about students putting spliffs in them instead of Heets (a few articles about JUUL claimed students were mixing drugs into the liquid, despite the pod design making this impossible).

I fully support people’s right to smoke if they want to, but there’s no denying that it isn’t the healthiest habit. Smokers should have a choice of safer and effective recreational nicotine products to move to if they choose. JUUL is one of those products; iQOS, Glo and the iBuddy are others. If harm reduction advocates start supporting some products but not others, instead of combining forces against the common enemy, we’ll be picked off one by one.

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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Surprise result for PMI in New Zealand iQOS case

iQOS case

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

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

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

A lost cause?

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

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

Because PMI won the case.

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

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

So what happened?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

iQOS and 100 HEETS £49

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Buy an iQOS with 100 HEETS for just £49.

Here at Heat Not Burn UK we are very passionate about harm reduction and that is one of the reasons that we have embraced the iQOS more than any other heated tobacco device, it is in our own humble opinion the best heated tobacco device currently on the market bar none.

Well we have now teamed up with a very good UK dealer and are able to offer up a fantastic deal on the PMI iQOS.

The deal we are able to offer is a complete iQOS starter kit in either navy or white complete with 5 packs of HEETS (100 sticks) for the fantastic price of only £49. The R.R.P of the iQOS is £89 and the cheapest you can get HEETS for is around £7 so this deal would normally be retailing at around £124 but right here on this website you can get that all for just £49 for a limited period.

If you are fed up of smoking traditional cigarettes then this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a great offer. PMI (Philip Morris International) already know that the traditional cigarettes days are numbered, why not come and join the revolution?

All iQOS starter kits are genuine, come with a one year “no quibble” guarantee, our shipping is fast and our customer service is second to none, what’s not to like?

As for the HEETS they are available in 3 different flavours: Amber is for the smoker who prefers the full strength taste, yellow is more of a smoother flavour and for any fans of menthol then our Turquoise HEETS are perfect!

Also if you are just looking for genuine HEETS on their own we sell them too and you can buy a carton of ten packs for just £70, which works out at £7 a pack.

Click here to be taken to our online store!

 

This post has been updated to reflect a price change in the offer, it was originally £89 for the deal, now the same deal is just £49. Jurassic Park!!

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iBuddy i1 Review – Heat not Burn UK Exclusive!

iBuddy heat not burn

Reviewing new Heat not Burn products isn’t exactly a high-pressure job. It’s not like e-cigs, where there are dozens of new devices and liquids every week. In fact there are only a handful of mainstream HnB systems right now, although the number is slowly growing as the technology becomes more popular. Still, it’s an exciting event when something new appears, so I was pleasantly surprised when an iBuddy i1 turned up in my mail last week.

The iBuddy is a stick-type device, the same concept as iQOS and Glo. Maybe more importantly, it’s also a sign that Chinese companies are taking an interest in HnB. Most of the products we’ve looked at so far are made by the tobacco industry or companies who’ve been making loose leaf vaporisers for a long time, but this one isn’t. iBuddy is a Chinese company based in Shenzhen, the province that’s home to most of the big vaping manufacturers, and so far they’ve mostly made e-cigs. Now they’ve branched out into heated tobacco products.

Earlier iBuddy products look like clones of popular e-cig models, but that’s not the case with the i1. This is an original design, and while the concept is familiar the device is totally new. It doesn’t look anything like either Glo or iQOS, although it has a lot in common with them. Because it’s an independent product it also hasn’t gone through the usual years-long evaluation and test market process that its rivals have; you can simply order one from China and it’ll turn up in the post.

The other interesting thing about this device is the tobacco sticks it uses.  iBuddy have, sensibly, decided not to develop their own sticks. That would cost money, and setting up a distribution network would cost even more. Instead they’ve designed the i1 to use PMI’s Heets, which are already available in many countries. PMI probably won’t be too upset by that, either; if someone buys an iBuddy they’re not buying an iQOS, but they will be buying Heets.

Would anyone actually buy an iBuddy instead of the PMI device, though? Good question! Let’s have a look at it.

The Review

The iBuddy is nicely presented, in a solid box with two plastic trays inside. The top one contains the device itself. This is a bit longer than an 18650 battery and fits neatly in the hand. It’s very light, and seems to be mostly plastic, but it feels fairly solid. The front and back have a rubberised anti-slip finish that gives the device more of a quality feel. It’s quite simple, too. There’s a metal button on one side, and a plastic slide at the other. A row of three small LEDs on the front show battery charge and heating status, there’s a hole at the top to take a Heet, and a micro-USB charging port at the bottom. According to iBuddy the built-in battery has a 1,800mAh capacity, and its performance suggests it certainly isn’t any lower than that.

Under the device is a comprehensive instruction booklet, and below that is another tray that contains a USB cable, cleaning brush and some alcohol-soaked cotton buds. That’s it for the package contents, but then apart from a box of Heets it’s all you need.

Plugging it in lit up all three LEDs, showing that the battery was already fully charged or close to it. I left it for a while just to top it off, then opened a fresh pack of Amber Heets and started playing.

The first difference I noticed is the way the device is loaded. With both iQOS and Glo – and apparently KT&G’s new Lil, although we haven’t been able to get our hands on one yet – the stick is loaded straight into a fixed chamber. The iBuddy has a removable holder that can be ejected by pushing up the slide on the side of the device. You don’t have to take it out to load or remove a stick, but I’ll come back to that. I found that the easiest way to load a Heet is to leave the holder in place and insert the stick. They go in easily, with just a little resistance for the last half inch.

To use the iBuddy you just have to press the button to wake it from standby, then hold it down for three seconds to start the heating process. The right-hand LED starts blinking red to show that the heater is running; when it stops blinking and glows a steady red, it’s ready to vape. It heats up quickly – I timed several sticks, and they were all ready to go in under twenty seconds.

So, with the tobacco heated, it was time to take a puff. The iBuddy might be a lightweight device, but the heating element and airflow certainly seem to be up to scratch. With Amber Heets it delivered a satisfying amount of vapour; I would say it’s competitive with iQOS and Glo. The heater is controlled by a puff sensor that allows 16 puffs on a Heet, then shuts down; the LEDs blink as a warning that you have a few seconds left to snatch a last puff. Once the heater switches off the iBuddy will quickly go back into standby.

It was at this point that I found out why the iBuddy has a removable Heet holder. When I’d finished the first stick I just pulled it straight out, which works fine with similar devices. A while later I tried to load a new Heet, and it wouldn’t go in. This was a puzzle, but then I happened to notice something odd about the first one. Imagine my surprise when I realised I was holding a filter and empty paper tube. The contents were still in the holder; once I’d ejected it I was able to get the tobacco out by blowing through the hole at the bottom.

Examining the roll of tobacco, and then shining a light into the hole in the device, soon gave an explanation. The iQOS heats the tobacco with a blade that pierces the end of the roll; the iBuddy has a spike. It’s a fairly substantial spike, which probably helps the performance, but it also gets a good grip on the tobacco and doesn’t really want to let go. If you just grab a used Heet by the filter and pull it out, more often than not the tobacco will stay on the spike. Ejecting the holder helps, but it’s not infallible – the tobacco still stays in the holder at least once every five or six sticks. This isn’t a massive issue, but it is a bit annoying – especially when you blow a roll out of the holder and it disintegrates, spraying strands of tobacco all over your keyboard.

Despite this problem I was able to give the iBuddy an extensive trial, using it for several days – including one day when I didn’t use anything else – and it does the job. The vapour is satisfying, and battery life is good – better than iQOS, and similar to Glo. After using a full pack of twenty Heets on a single charge, one of the three LEDs was still lit, showing more than 25% charge remaining; I’d say that, unless you’re a very heavy user, you should be able to get a full day’s vaping out of a full battery.

The Verdict

Given the choice, would I personally take the iBuddy over an iQOS? No, probably not. That’s mainly down to the bother of having to clear tobacco out of it every few sticks. It does get irritating, and for me the superior battery life doesn’t quite compensate for that. It also feels a lot less robust overall; it’s so light that I’m pretty sure the whole body is made of plastic, and it just doesn’t have the solidity of its competitors. It’s by no means a bad device though, and it does have another advantage – price.

Officially the iBuddy i1 sells for $69.99, but you can find it online for $45.99 – a bit under £35. An iQOS is going to cost around twice that. If you’re on a tight budget, or want to try Heat not Burn without investing in an iQOS just yet, the iBuddy could be what you’re looking for.

Buy iQOS

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PMI want to give up cigarettes – but not everyone’s happy

In the last post we talked about New Year resolutions and how switching to heated tobacco might be one of yours. That turned out to be quite prophetic, because somebody else made a resolution that features HnB products, and they didn’t exactly keep it quiet either. That somebody was Philip Morris, the world’s largest and most successful tobacco company, and they announced their resolution with a series of full-page ads in major newspapers.

On the 2nd of January, a large PMI advert appeared in three of the UK’s best-selling papers, The Times, The Sun and The Daily Mirror. To say it was attention-grabbing doesn’t really do it justice. The banner headline read:

OUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

WE’RE TRYING TO GIVE UP CIGARETTES

Just to make sure everyone got the message there was a big, bold PMI logo at the bottom of the ad, which certainly must have piqued a lot of people’s interest. After all, PMI are pretty much famous for one thing, and that thing is selling cigarettes. So why on Earth would they want to give them up?

If you read on, you’ll find out. The next line says “Philip Morris is known for cigarettes. Every year, many smokers give them up. Now it’s our turn.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for doubt – PMI are saying, very clearly, that they want to stop selling cigarettes.

Predictably, this has sparked a lot of comments. Many people are very supportive – we at Heat not Burn UK are, for example. So are most libertarians, many vaping advocates and at least one major tobacco control group, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

Equally predictably, not everyone is so happy. A whole alphabet of agencies, pressure groups and nanny state advocates are jumping up and down, squeaking in outrage. How very dare Philip Morris say they’re going to stop selling cigarettes! Isn’t it awful that they’re allowed to say such horrible things?

Well, maybe not. Let’s look at exactly what PMI are proposing, seeing as they helpfully listed it all in their adverts:

  • Launch a new website, with an associated marketing campaign, to give smokers information on how to quit and what safer alternatives are available.
  • Offer support to smoking cessation services in areas where smoking rates are highest.
  • Put a card with information on how to quit or switch to a safer product in packs of cigarettes.
  • Make more safe alternatives available to British smokers.

Of course PMI have already spent more than £2.5 billion on the last of these, and the first products are on sale in the UK right now – iQOS and the Mesh e-cigarette. Over the next year or two more will follow, including at least one more heated tobacco product and a completely different one that uses chemical reactions to create a nicotine mist.

So what’s the problem? Why are people like Deborah Arnott, the perpetually outraged CEO of Action on Smoking and Health, so angry that PMI are willing to spend a lot of money helping smokers to quit? Well, that’s where it gets complicated. There seem to be two main themes at work here, so let’s look at those.

PMI don’t mean it!

The first objection is that Philip Morris don’t really mean it. After all, if they want to stop selling cigarettes they could just stop, couldn’t they? In fact tobacco control come out with this argument every time a tobacco company does anything related to harm reduction or alternative products – “Why don’t you just stop making cigarettes, then?”

Well, mostly because it’s not that simple. Last Tuesday, when the PMI advert appeared, the BBC asked a company spokesman the same question, and it got an obvious answer: Basically, “Because if we stopped selling cigarettes tomorrow, smokers would just buy them from someone else.”

I suppose you could argue that if all the tobacco companies stopped selling cigarettes there would be nobody else to buy them from, but let’s be realistic here: There’s a large, organised criminal industry making counterfeit cigarettes already, despite the tobacco companies selling over five trillion real ones every year.

Just imagine what would happen if the legitimate supply dried up. Does anyone seriously think all of the world’s one billion smokers would just quit? Not a chance; most of them would start buying on the black market. The people who run that black market would become, overnight, the richest and most powerful criminals in the history of the world. Cocaine, heroin, even America’s Prohibition-era bootleggers would pale into insignificance.

There’s another point, too. Tobacco companies have a legal duty to their shareholders to make a profit, so if they all trashed their businesses tomorrow they’d go to jail. Meanwhile the pension funds who are the biggest owners of tobacco shares would collapse, leaving millions of pensioners in poverty. The economic damage alone could trigger another global recession.

So, for a couple of reasons, PMI can’t just stop making cigarettes. It’s only going to work once the majority of smokers have either quit or switched to reduced risk products, like Heat not Burn or e-cigarettes. Philip Morris have already spent a lot of time and money encouraging that, and now they’re offering to spend more.

 

It’s against the rules!

Arnott also claims that PMI’s second proposal – offering support to stop smoking services – is illegal. The basis for this claim is that under Article 5.3 of the WHO’s tobacco control treaty, governments aren’t allowed to accept donations from the tobacco industry. This obviously looks like a problem, except for one tiny detail: Somebody is lying here, and it isn’t PMI.

Article 5.3 says no such thing, and Deborah Arnott knows that. All the article actually says is that any interaction between government and the tobacco industry must be transparent, so as long as PMI are supporting stop-smoking services openly there’s no problem. I’ve met Arnott more than once and it would be safe to say she is not my favourite person (I’m not hers, either), but it’s still unpleasant to have to state that she is being completely dishonest here.

Arnott says that, instead of donating to stop smoking services, tobacco companies should be forced to give the government more of their profits. It’s not hard to guess why: ASH has lost a significant amount of its government funding in the last year, and its response has been to push for a Tobacco Levy. This would be an extra tax on the industry, with a big chunk of the proceeds going to – you guessed it! – ASH.

Back to reality

The truth is, it’s not hard to understand why PMI are serious about moving to safer products. Why wouldn’t they be? There’s obviously a demand for safer ways to use nicotine – just look at the way vaping has taken off in the UK, and how fast iQOS is growing in Japan. If PMI don’t sell those products they’ll lose out to companies that do, and if they are selling them, why not work to steer customers towards them and away from the more dangerous ones?

What it comes down to is that smoking isn’t good for you, and everyone knows that. The tobacco companies know it, although they denied it once – but that was decades ago and the people who did it are all long gone. Arnott knows it; after all, she’s made a lot of money telling people. You know it, too; that’s why you’re on this site reading about safer products.

Heated tobacco, and other reduced-risk products like e-cigarettes, have turned the world of tobacco control upside down. Now we have Philip Morris offering to spend their own money to help people quit smoking, while the old guard like Deborah Arnott shout abuse from the sidelines because it’s not all about them anymore. At Heat not Burn UK we’re just interested in safer alternatives to smoking, and we’re on the side of anyone that makes them available. So well done on your New Year’s resolution, PMI – we’re sure you’ll do all you can to make it happen.

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Quit smoking in 2018 with Heat not Burn

Quit Smoking 2018

So the first of January is almost here, and most of us will be thinking about New Year resolutions. What are we going to do better in 2018? If you’re a smoker, it’s pretty likely that your resolution is to quit the habit. Every year, about 9% of British adults say their New Year resolution is to quit smoking – that’s more than half of all Britain’s smokers.

The problem is, most of them won’t succeed. In fact most won’t even try very hard to quit smoking because, whatever health campaigners say, most smokers don’t really want to quit. They know they should quit, but that’s not the same as actually wanting to. The truth is, smokers usually enjoy it. They like the taste, they like the effects of nicotine and they like the social aspects of it. For many people the positives outweigh the harm, especially as that’s all uncertain and probably years in the future.

Harm reduction

Obviously, if smokers enjoy the habit and only feel they should quit because of the health risks, there’s a place in the market for something that’s just as enjoyable but doesn’t have the risks. That’s why e-cigarettes have grown so quickly; a quarter of British smokers have now started vaping, and more than half of those have switched completely.

The problem is, vaping doesn’t work for everyone. Some ex-smokers like the variety of flavours you can get, but others want something that tastes like their favourite cigarette – and there’s no way to do that with an e-cig. It just isn’t possible to recreate the flavour of burned tobacco. The devices can also be quite fiddly, especially if you want good performance. The best e-cigs need a bit of work to get the coils set up properly and the liquid blended to your taste. Even the simplest ones aren’t quite as simple as smoking.

That’s where Heat not Burn comes in. Because HnB products use actual tobacco, instead of a flavoured liquid, they can get much closer to the taste of a real cigarette. The tobacco isn’t actually burned, of course, but it’s still heated enough to recreate the flavour very closely. The latest HnB devices are also very simple to use – sometimes exactly the same as a cigarette; you just take one out the pack and light the end.

So HnB can match the taste, sensation and convenience of smoking, but how does it stack up in terms of health? There’s been a lot of debate about that, because the products are so new, but this year we’ve seen some data starting to appear – and it’s all looking like good news.

How safe is HnB?

It isn’t nicotine that causes the health problems associated with smoking. It isn’t really tobacco, either. It’s smoke. When you burn something you create a whole list of toxic by-products. If it doesn’t burn with perfect efficiency – which is almost never will – the worst chemical that gets created is carbon monoxide. This is what causes almost all the heart disease in smokers.

As well as carbon monoxide, burning tobacco produces tar. This isn’t the same as the tar that goes on the roads, but it’s close enough – dark, sticky and oily. Tiny droplets of it boil off from the burning tobacco and condense in your lungs. Unfortunately, tar is riddled with chemicals that cause cancer and other lung diseases.

Tar and carbon monoxide are both bad for you, but there’s something else they have in common and you probably spotted it – they’re produced by burning. With Heat not Burn the clue is in the name – they don’t burn anything. That means there’s no tar and no carbon monoxide – and, right away, most of the danger of smoking is eliminated.

You’ll hear people say that, because HnB products are so new, there’s no way to know how safe they are – and they might be even worse than cigarettes. That simply isn’t true. Science has come a long way in the 140 years since modern cigarettes were invented, and the vapour from the latest HnB devices has already been very thoroughly studied. Right now, experts are saying that it’s about as safe as e-cigarette vapour, and the best estimate is that e-cigs are at least 95% safer than smoking.

Does it work?

So HnB is very similar to smoking, but a lot safer. But does it really work as an alternative? Yes it does. The most popular device right now is PMI’s iQOS, which was released in the UK just over a year ago. It’s been on sale in Japan for nearly two years – and it’s already made a huge difference to smoking rates. In the first half of this year alone cigarette sales fell by 11%, as millions of smokers switched to HnB. That figure is probably a lot higher by now, and PMI are saying that over 70% of Japanese smokers who’ve tried iQOS have quit smoking by completely switching to it.

Heat not Burn has been tried before, but it’s never really worked out. Two things have changed that. One is that, thanks to vaping, most smokers are now more willing to at least try an alternative; the other is that the technology is just better now. iQOS really works, and BAT’s rival Glo is likely to appear in British shops next year. There are other new products on the way, too. Before long there will be a range of HnB options for any smoker who wants them.

 

There’s no doubt that quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, but for most smokers it’s not easy; they struggle to quit, most will fail, and even those who succeed are likely to miss it. If you’ve decided to make quitting your New Year resolution for 2018, but you’re not really looking forward to the attempt, maybe it’s time to try something smarter. Instead of putting yourself through the misery of withdrawal, go for a solution that lets you keep the positive aspects of smoking but eliminate almost all the risk.

Quitting is hard; switching to Heat not Burn is easy, because you’re not really giving anything up. If you think it’s time to stop smoking, but you’re not exactly bursting with enthusiasm at the thought, grab yourself an iQOS starter kit and get started. Don’t quit – upgrade!

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Will heat not Burn make Britain smoke free?

Smoke Free

Ever since the first Heat not Burn devices appeared, they’ve been controversial. Most of that controversy has come from politicians and the public health industry, who seem to have hated the technology right from the beginning. If you’re a vaper their complaints will be pretty familiar; HnB users haven’t really quit, they’re still addicted to nicotine, it’s just a different kind of cigarette, it’s all a Big Tobacco plot to get children hooked… you know the sort of thing. It’s all hyped up, it’s all alarmist – and it’s all untrue.

What is true? It’s true that Heat not Burn has the potential to make smoking go away. Public health say they want this to happen, but over the past few years they’ve been very hostile to any new alternatives to smoking. The cynical might think they’re more worried about protecting their jobs than helping smokers find safer alternatives.

This might explain why all the targets set by the traditional anti-smoking lobby are slightly unambitious. Currently the British government’s tobacco control plan – largely written by taxpayer-funded activists like ASH – aims to create a “smoke free generation” by reducing the smoking rate to 5% (it’s currently around 16%). Obviously a 5% smoking rate isn’t “smoke free” in any way that resembles reality, because 5% of the UK population is actually quite a lot of people, but that’s their target. According to the trend in smoking rates over the last few years, that target should be achieved around 2040.

Now that figure is being challenged from an unexpected source. A couple of weeks ago Philip Morris released a report produced for them by Frontier Economics, an analysis consultant. Frontier have looked at the data on smoking rates in the UK, examined the current trends and what’s driving them, and come to an interesting conclusion.

The government might think that they can achieve their 5% target by 2040, but Frontier and PMI are saying that, in fact, they could get there much sooner – by 2029, just twelve years from now. It might seem surprising to hear a tobacco company advocating a faster decline in smoking, but in fact PMI have been saying this for a while now. When I visited their research centre at the Cube back in April they were very open about the fact that they plan to move away from cigarettes as fast as possible, and that the future is in alternative products.

What about vaping?

The problem is that, right now, the most common alternative product in the UK is e-cigarettes – and it looks like they might be running out of steam. The number of vapers in Britain is still rising, and an ever-increasing percentage of them have switched away from cigarettes completely (just under half of UK vapers also smoke, down from 70% two years ago), but growth is slowing down. In 2014, 800,000 British smokers started vaping, but it’s likely that by the end of 2017 the year’s total will be just 100,000. The most likely reason for this fall is that smokers have been scared off by false claims about health risks.

Now PMI say that it’s possible to reach the “Smokefree” target eleven years early – but only if the number of smokers switching to safer alternatives starts to accelerate again, back to where it was in 2014. The question is, what alternative should they switch to?

E-cigarettes are still a popular option – according to Public Health England they’re now the UK’s top choice among smokers who want to quit. It’s possible that, if people like ASH stop talking nonsense about them, the number of smokers switching to them every year could rise again. On the other hand, it’s also possible they could be overtaken by Heat not Burn. In fact I think that’s very likely.

When it comes to quitting smoking, e-cigs have been a game changer. The number of smokers in Britain is falling faster than it ever has before, even though fewer people are buying nicotine gum or using NHS quit services. They’re not ideal for everyone, though. Some smokers find them too complicated; others just want something that tastes like their favourite cigarette.

Is Heat not Burn the future?

I think a lot of smokers who aren’t interested in e-cigs are going to be very interested in HnB, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a device like iQOS isn’t as simple as a cigarette – what is? – but it’s a lot less complicated than a high-end e-cig. Secondly, HnB can recreate the taste of cigarette smoke almost perfectly and that’s important to a lot of people. Many vapers love the array of new flavours they can use, but there are also plenty smokers who just want something that tastes like the smoke they’re used to. E-cigs are never going to recreate that flavour – they just don’t work that way – but PMI have spent a lot of money making sure iQOS tastes as much like a Marlboro as possible, and it’s paid off.

If you want to see how well it’s paid off, just look at Japan. iQOS launched there three years ago, and as of last month it’s taken 13.3% of the country’s nicotine market. It’s already broken even, paying for the enormous cost of developing it, and it isn’t even on sale in most countries yet. E-cigs have been growing fast, but not that fast.

It doesn’t stop with iQOS, either. As well as its direct competitors, like Glo and the new Lil from KT&G, there are more products due on the market soon. A couple of paragraphs back I asked what’s as simple as a cigarette. Well, PMI’s next product is. Using the same concept as RJ Reynold’s Revo, but apparently working much better, these are exactly as easy to use a cigarette. Just take it out the pack, light the end – which contains a charcoal heating pellet – then, when you’re finished it, stub it out in an ashtray. If it works as well as PMI are hoping, this could be even bigger than iQOS.

There’s a lot going on in the world of HnB right now, with new products appearing and existing ones being rolled out into new markets. There’s also a lot of opposition from the usual suspects in tobacco control, and that has the potential to put smokers off trying HnB for themselves. If we’re lucky, however, smoking could more or less disappear from the UK before 2030, and it won’t be plain packs or nagging health campaigns that do it; it will be e-cigs and heated tobacco products.