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Review – the new iQOS 2.4 Plus

iQOS 2.4 Plus
A box, with my new iQOS in it!

Competition in the Heat not Burn market is beginning to pick up, as you’ll have noticed if you read this site regularly; over the last few months we’ve tested several interesting new devices, from both major tobacco companies and Chinese independents. At the retail level one product is still dominant, however – Philip Morris’s excellent iQOS.

iQOS is pretty widely available now, and it’s the top-selling HnB system around the world by a long way. Technology doesn’t stand still, though, especially for an innovative type of product like this, and some of the devices we’ve been looking at include features that the iQOS has lacked up to now. When competitors are coming out with new ideas (and new products) all over the place, standing still is a great way to wake up one morning and realise you’re not the market leader anymore.

Well, PMI clearly don’t want to be in this position, because for the last week I’ve been playing with a new toy – the iQOS 2.4 Plus. Like the Lil Solid from KT&G I reviewed a few weeks ago this isn’t an entirely new device; it’s an upgrade of the iQOS 2.4 I had already. It is a pretty significant upgrade though, so we thought it deserved another look.

The review

The 2.4 Plus comes in a sturdy and attractive cardboard box. Lifting the top off reveals the usual plastic tray with the two main components resting snugly in their little nests – the portable charging case (PCC), and next to it the actual holder. At first glance these look exactly like my old iQOS 2.4 does, but closer examination soon turned up a few differences. I’ll get back to those though.

Anyway the tray lifts out to reveal a cardboard cover that opens up to give access to the rest of the goodies. The first things you’ll find in there are a warranty card and a very comprehensive, well-illustrated user manual. Under those is a charger and cable, a two-part cleaning brush and a pack of ten cleaning sticks. Along with the three packs of Amber HEETs that came with my starter kit, it’s all you need to get vaping with the new iQOS.

The accessories really are identical to the ones that come with the older version, by the way. Then again, they’re all high quality and do their jobs perfectly. There’s no need for PMI to update them, so they haven’t.

Back to the 2.4 Plus itself, then. As I said, despite initial appearances it isn’t identical to the 2.4. The PCC and holder are pretty much the same, and in fact they’re interchangeable (more on that later), but the vital electronics have been completely overhauled for the new model.

The new PCC is a sleek unit a bit smaller than the average smartphone. It’s a very clean and simple design; there’s a flip-up top at one end, a micro-USB charging port at the other and a row of buttons and LEDs down one side. The top button flips the lid open so you can get at the holder; that and the new Bluetooth button are now finished in a nice gold colour. The third button is less obtrusive; it’s the power button, at the bottom of the row. This lets you power the whole unit down, although I never do this and I’ve never spoken to anyone who does. On the plus side, a quick press on this button will show you the PCC’s charge status.

Between the two gold buttons is a row of five bright white LEDs. The top one, easily recognised because it’s elongated, lights up to show that the holder is charging. The other four show how much charge is left in the PCC, in increments of 25%; they’re illuminated while the holder charges, when the PCC is plugged in or if you press the power button.

Let’s move on to the holder, then. When you press the top button on the PCC, the cap flips open in a satisfyingly positive way (I must admit, I just love the standard of engineering on this device). Under the cap is the holder, nestled snugly in its charging slot. Again it doesn’t look like much has changed, but there’s been a lot of work done on the innards.

The new holder is the same slim, lightweight unit as before, with a single LED-illuminated button (again coloured gold in the new model) to turn it on. It’s small enough to be held like an actual cigarette, and just light enough that I can even work with it balanced unsupported on my lip like an old-time journalist’s unfiltered Woodbine.

I should also mention that Bluetooth button. Pressing this lets you link the PCC to any Android device with a Bluetooth connection, and you can then manage it with the My iQOS app for Android. Unfortunately, so far this app only seems to be available in Switzerland, and the current language options are German and French. I speak pretty good German but I don’t live in Switzerland, so I haven’t been able to test it out so far. However, it should be rolling out more widely in the near future. As soon as it does I’ll download it and let you all know what it does.

Overall the iQOS 2.4 Plus is a familiar package, but a superbly engineered one. Externally it doesn’t look much different from older versions, but a device like this runs on its electronics and that’s where the upgrades have been made. So, what’s it like to use?

Vaping the new iQOS

With my shiny new iQOS fully charged I dug out the holder, plugged in an Amber HEET and held down the smart gold power button. After a couple of seconds the holder vibrated to let me know it was powered up and heating – a nice touch that I’ve seen on other devices, but was missing from iQOS before. At the same time the LED in the button starts to pulse; when it switches from pulsing to a steady glow (just under 20 seconds) you’re ready to vape. It would be nice if it vibrated again to let you know it was warmed up, but the white LED is bright enough to do that job anyway.

The actual experience of vaping the 2.4 Plus is very good. There’s plenty of vapour, it’s nice and warm, and the flavour is excellent. I tested it extensively with both Amber and Bronze HEETs (seven packs in total, if you’re interested) and the performance is just great. Apart from my first experience with mild menthol sticks I’ve always been impressed with the iQOS, and the 2.4 Plus carries on the good work.

It’s also extremely usable. Unlike all the other devices I’ve tested, iQOS relies on the PCC to recharge the holder’s small battery between HEETs. This lets the holder come as close to the experience of holding a cigarette as it’s possible to get, but it does impose a delay between HEETs as you recharge it. This has never been a big problem for me, but PMI seem to have put some work into fixing it anyway. The 2.4 Plus PCC takes just two and a half minutes to fully charge the holder.

I mentioned earlier that the components are interchangeable between the old and new versions, so out of curiosity I vaped one HEET then put the 2.4 Plus holder in the 2.4 PCC to recharge. It worked fine, too – but it took almost four minutes. If you want the new high-speed recharge you need to use the 2.4 Plus components together. On the other hand, if you have an extra holder for your 2.4 the new PCC will top it up while you vape the new one.

A single vaping session on the 2.4 Plus lasts for five and three-quarter minutes or 14 puffs, whichever you get to first. When you have 45 seconds or two puffs left to go the holder vibrates again, to let you know it’s planning to switch itself off and give you the chance to grab some last-minute nicotine.

One thing that I didn’t notice when I first started using an iQOS is that the top cap of the holder slides. A common theme in my reviews has been the annoying way the tobacco plug in a used HEET sometimes stays in the device when you pull out the stick – the VCOT is the worst offender for this. Well, that isn’t a problem at all with the iQOS 2.4 Plus. When you’re finished vaping all you have to do is push the top cap up half an inch on its rails, like the slide of a very small pump-action shotgun, and the HEET will be neatly removed from the blade every time. I put 140 HEETs through this gadget and didn’t have a single problem with them coming apart on removal. Again, it impressed me with how much effort PMI have put into making this a user-friendly device.

Finally, let’s talk about battery life. I don’t know if the PCC’s battery capacity has been increased or if the new electronics handle it more efficiently, but it held out for an impressively long time. My 2.4 is close to fully discharged after one pack of HEETs; the 2.4 Plus, fast recharge and all, managed the best part of two packs. By the time it finally got down to 25% charge remaining there were 42 used HEETs neatly piled up in my ashtray.

The verdict

If you’re familiar with the iQOS already, well, this is an iQOS. You know roughly what to expect. However, it’s the best iQOS yet; the improvements make a real difference to the user experience, especially the fast charge from the new PCC. Even when I’m racing deadlines and getting through HEETs much faster than normal I never find myself impatiently waiting for the holder to recharge. The battery life is impressive, too; even if you’re a heavy user a single charge of the PCC should be enough to easily last you a day, and recharging it takes less than an hour.

Overall, the iQOS 2.4 Plus is a great device. I like several of the others I’ve tried out, but none of them come as close to the experience of smoking as the iQOS does. Part of that is ergonomic; the small, light holder can be handled pretty much like a cigarette, which makes it very easy to adjust. I get on fine with larger devices, but there’s no doubt the iQOS has a big edge in this department. On top of that it also delivers an excellent vape. Heets seem to have become the new standard, but they were designed for iQOS and they work outstandingly well in it.

If you already have an iQOS the new 2.4 Plus is an attractive upgrade, especially if you were thinking about getting another holder. Don’t; get the 2.4 Plus kit instead and take advantage of that super-fast charge. If you don’t already have an iQOS, but you’re looking for a safer alternative to smoking (or something closer to the smoking experience that e-cigs deliver), the best Heat not Burn device on the market just got even better – and you can get one here, along with three packs of HEETs, for the unbeatable price of £49.

IQOS 2.4 PLUS 60 HEETS OFFER

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Pod Mod review – the new iQOS Mesh

Pod Mod review

A few weeks ago I talked about pod mods, the new generation of ultra-convenient e-cigarettes that are popping up on shelves all over the place. Although we’re mainly interested in Heat not Burn devices here we think pod mods are pretty cool too – they’re much easier to use than conventional e-cigs, which is ideal if you want something that’s as simple as a cigarette. We’re also now selling one, the new iQOS Mesh from PMI, so I thought it would be a good idea if I checked one out to see what it was like. A Mesh was duly ordered, and turned up late last week along with a supply of the VEEV pods it eats.

Before I go any further it’s time for a quick confession. In my previous article on pod mods I said I already had a Mesh. Well, that turned out to be only partly true. Last year I “borrowed” a PMI Mesh from Dick Puddlecote, and at the time I was quite impressed with it. However the new iQOS-branded Mesh is a very different animal. It shares the same design philosophy, but every part of the device and its pods is bang up to date. So, if you’ve read anything about the old Mesh, forget it; the iQOS version is a brand-new product. Let’s have a look at it.

First impressions

The Mesh in its box.

The new Mesh comes in a neat cardboard box; pull the top off and there’s the device itself, nestled in the usual plastic tray. It didn’t take long to start spotting differences. The new Mesh is much longer and slimmer than the old one, and also has a higher quality feel. My old Mesh has a rubberized plastic body, quite short and with a flattened oval cross section; the new one is aluminium except for the plastic end cap, and it’s round. One nice touch is that there’s a flat strip down one side to help stop it rolling away if you lay it on the table. Two-thirds of the body has a nice satin finish; the hollow top end is highly polished.

This is a very simple device. There’s a single power button which turns the Mesh on or off when pressed for three seconds. On the end cap is a micro-USB charging port and an LED indicator that tells you it’s charging. The other end is open; that’s where you plug in the VEEV pod.

Overall the iQOS Mesh feels very solid, but it’s also remarkably light. It’s a much bigger device than a JUUL or MyBlu, roughly the size of a large cigar, but every time I pick it up I’m surprised by how little it weighs. It’s pretty impressive, considering the all-metal body and the fact there’s a 900mAh battery packed away in there.

Apart from the mod itself, there isn’t a huge amount in the box. Lift out the tray and open the cardboard lid underneath, and you’ll find a charging cable and a UK plug adapter for it; that’s all.

IQOS MESH BANNER

The review

Anyway, I don’t believe in messing about, so after playing with my new toy for not very long I plugged it in and topped up the battery. It was pretty well charged straight out the box, so the next time I looked away from my screen for a minute it was ready to go (a full charge takes about an hour, and it has a passthrough feature, so you can vape while it charges).

Old (left) and new Mesh pods. They both hold 2ml of liquid.

With the battery fully charged I dug out a Tobacco Harmony-flavoured VEEV pod and unwrapped it. These are also very different from the old Mesh pods. For a start, they’re a whole lot smaller. The old pods clipped over the end of the battery, and had a lot of empty space inside; the new ones plug into the hollow cone at the top of the mod, so they can be a lot more compact for a similar liquid capacity (I can’t remember how much the old ones held, but they were TPD-compliant, so no more than 2ml; the new ones contain 2ml of 6mg, 11mg or 18mg liquid). The actual heating element is the same idea, though; instead of a coil it’s a small square of fine wire mesh which seems to double as a wick, so there’s no risk of anything burning. In fact the Mesh is actually a temperature control device; it regulates the power going to the wick to prevent overheating and the dreaded “dry puff”.

To stop liquid moving around inside unused pods and dribbling out the mouthpiece there’s a small rubber seal fitted to each pod. Once you’ve unwrapped the pod all you have to do is pull out the seal and plug the pod into the end of the device. They fit either way up; just don’t use any force to insert it. If it’s not going in just twist it gently until it does.

With a VEEV loaded, all you have to do is press the button for a couple of seconds until it lights up, then take a puff. It’s not a fire button; the Mesh has an automatic switch that heats up when you puff. The button is purely an off/on switch. If you don’t take a puff for three minutes the Mesh will automatically power down again.

As for the actual vaping experience, I was impressed! I’ve read one review that said the vapour production and throat hit were disappointing. Well, all I can say is they must have been doing it wrong, because I get plenty of vapour out of mine. Is the throat hit the same as I get from my usual combo of a Rouleaux RX200 and Limitless RDTA loaded with 24mg liquid? Of course not. Then again you could put the Rouleaux in a sock and beat rhinos to death with it, and it dribbles like a senile dog. The Mesh is slim, light and compact, and it never leaks. At all.

My Mesh came with two flavours – Tobacco Harmony is a rich tobacco blend, and Cool Peppermint; you can probably guess what that one tastes of. Both flavours were excellent; although I never liked menthol cigarettes I really got to like the peppermint, in particular. For the average user a VEEV pod should last about a day, making it roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes – and, at £2.99 for a pack of two, a lot cheaper. The battery holds enough charge to get through a whole pod and part of the next one, but I tended to recharge it between pods anyway.

The point to keep in mind is that the Mesh wasn’t designed to replace your favourite mod and dripper. It’s an easy to use, but very effective, device aimed at people who just want a simple alternative to cigarettes. I think it’s ideal for that – and it’s a great choice if you want some thing compact and non-dribbly to take to the pub, as well. In short, it does exactly what a pod mod is supposed to do, and it does it very well.

Verdict

I liked the original Mesh when I tried it last year, and I like the new, improved version even more. PMI have taken a good basic concept and made it even better, producing a very well-made pod mod that’s simple, effective and great value. If you’re looking for an e-cig that just works, with no messing around with refill bottles or coil changes, the iQOS Mesh is an excellent choice.

To see our entire iQOS Mesh and VEEV collection please click here.

IQOS Mesh Logo

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Another New Gadget – the NOS Tobacco Vaporizer

NOS Tobacco Vapouriser

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

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

The Review

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

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

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

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

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

The NOS in action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, we test these things pretty thoroughly

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

Conclusions

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

 

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HnB and vaping – We’re on the same side!

Vaping

Most readers of this blog will know that, while I’m a user and huge fan of Heat not Burn products, I’m mainly a vaper. When I quit smoking I used an early e-cig starter kit, and I’ve now been vaping for more than five years. In that time I’ve used a lot of different e-cigs, learned to make my own coils and e-liquids, and written thousands of words to advocate for vaping. I go to pro-vaping conferences and know most of the UK’s prominent vaping advocates. Vaping is a thing that I do.

It’s not the only thing I do, though. I don’t see vaping as the only acceptable alternative to smoking, the way public health nuts think nicotine patches are the only acceptable alternative. I use Swedish snus, when I can get it. I have a couple of tins of snuff around. I like HnB products. I even have a cigar a couple of times a year.

So I like vaping, but I’m open to anything else that gives the pleasure of smoking but eliminates most of the risks – and if someone is willing to accept the risks and continue smoking, I’m squarely behind their right to do that too. I am definitely not one of those born-again vapers who thinks all smokers need to switch right now, and if any smokers do want to move to something safer I’m not going to tell them they need to move to an e-cig. If they’d prefer to buy snus online, or find an old-style tobacconist and stock up on snuff, or get themselves an iQOS, I have no problem with that at all.

The circular firing squad

That’s my philosophy, then – a tolerant one that’s mostly interested in making sure people have access to the products they want. So I wasn’t too please the other day when Dick Puddlecote sent me a link to a YouTube video from a popular UK vaping channel.

The first half of this video seems to have been provoked by an article in Vapouround, a British vaping magazine. Early this year the magazine carried a two-page feature on iQOS and how it features in PMI’s plans to phase out cigarettes from the UK market. Personally I don’t see any thing controversial about that. Yes, it’s a vaping magazine. That’s fine; iQOS is also a vapour product. It creates its vapour from heated tobacco instead of aerosolised liquid, but that’s a technical difference; the basic principle is the same.

Obviously that’s not what the star of the video thought, though. In fact he launched into a stunningly ignorant half-hour rant against iQOS, PMI, and HnB in general. And when I say stunningly ignorant, I’m not kidding. According to him, a Heet is just a cigarette that’s been coated with propylene glycol. In his opinion, using an iQOS “still qualifies as smoking” just because Heets contain tobacco. This is obviously total bollocks; by that logic using snus also counts as smoking, and do I really need to explain how ridiculous that is?

Ignorance is bad, but what really staggered me was the level of venom aimed at Philip Morris – who the culprit seems to think is an actual person involved in the sale of iQOS, by the way, rather than the long-dead proprietor of a small tobacconist in Victorian London. The video is peppered with delusional ramblings like “Phil, come to the office and have a coffee”. Frankly, it sounds unhinged.

Fake moral high ground

I’ll be blunt here: I’m fucking sick of certain vapers getting on their high horse about the tobacco industry. None of us whinged and moralised about the tobacco industry when we smoked, did we? Oh no; we all loved the tobacco industry back then, because they sold us things we liked. They’re still doing that, because millions of people like iQOS and Glo.

I don’t want to hear any crap about how the tobacco industry lied about the dangers of smoking either. That was decades ago, and the people who did it are all retired and mostly dead. Philip Morris is a company – a sign on an office and a name on a bank account. It isn’t an actual guy named Phil who wants to sell iQOS so he can buy another Bentley. The company is just a legal entity that lets people work together. It doesn’t bear any guilt for what people who worked for it in the 1970s did, so trying to smear iQOS because some guy lied about Marlboro causing cancer 50 years ago is just stupid.

The tobacco companies aren’t going to shut down tomorrow and only a moron would want them to. Apart from anything else, if Philip Morris and BAT go down, millions of ordinary people’s pension funds will go down with them. Do you seriously think it’s worth causing massive poverty just because you don’t like iQOS? No, you don’t – so why the vitriolic hatred of a business that’s just trying to give its customers what they want?

Let’s be realistic here: If reduced-risk products are going to be made widely available, the tobacco industry is going to play a role in making that happen. A lot of people simply don’t want to go into a vape shop staffed by tattooed people with hipster beards and ear gauges, and spend their money on Chinese brands they’ve never heard of. They’d much rather buy something that says Marlboro on the box, because that’s the taste they’re looking for. Yes, I get it; you hate the taste of tobacco now and think everyone should vape 3mg/ml mango sorbet. The problem is most smokers don’t agree with you. They want Marlboro, and unless you can give them an e-liquid that tastes like a burning Marlboro – which you can’t; it’s been tried often enough – they’re not interested. E-cigs work for many smokers, but not for all, and why should smokers be denied a safer alternative that does work for them just because you’re puffed up with moral indignation about the people who made it?

 

I don’t care if you don’t like Heat not Burn products. I don’t even care if you think they’re morally wrong. What I do care about is that you’re making angry, incoherent videos attacking reduced-harm products, and in the process doing public health’s work for them. If you’re ranting about how HnB is a cunning plot by the evil tobacco companies, you’re basically Stan Glantz. iQOS, and other products like it, are designed to do exactly the same thing as e-cigs are – give smokers a safer alternative. That’s something we should all be able to support. If you don’t like Heat not Burn products then just don’t buy them; there’s no need for all these tantrums.

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Glo safety update – good news on DNA trials

DNA trials

Anti-nicotine zealots chose safety as their main battleground on e-cigarettes, and it didn’t work out too well for them. Now they seem to be doing the same again with Heat not Burn. Will it be more effective this time? Probably not.

We’ve already seen a lot of research from PMI on the safety of their iQOS device. Now British American Tobacco have released their own work on Glo, which is currently on sale in Japan and South Korea. Glo works on the same concept as iQOS, delivering vapour from heated tobacco that’s held in a cigarette-like stick, and the only real difference in the technology is that Glo heats its sticks to a lower temperature. That means we wouldn’t expect to see a huge difference in its vapour compared to iQOS – and, sure enough, we don’t.

Science and smoking

What BAT were interested in was the potential of Glo vapour to cause DNA changes in human cells. Damage to DNA can kill a cell – but, even worse, it can also cause cancer by making the cell grow and divide abnormally. Smoking is known to cause damage to thousands of genes; the question is, how does Glo compare?

Recently there’s been a lot of criticism of studies that use human cell cultures to measure the effects of e-cigarette vapour. This criticism is well aimed, because while the cells might be the same as the ones in a real human body, they don’t benefit from all the body’s layers of defence systems and repair capabilities. In a living body, damaged cells are quickly repaired or ejected; this doesn’t happen in a petri dish.

For their own trials BAT decided they could do better than that. Instead of a simple culture they used an actual simulation of a human airway. Known as MucilAir, it’s grown in a laboratory from cloned human cells and it replicates the body’s own defence mechanisms. The culture can produce mucus, to clear away contamination, and is covered in hair-like cilia like the ones human airways use to expel dust and particulates.

With the experimental tissues set up, BAT’s scientists then programmed a smoking machine to mimic the way people actually use Glo. This is another frequent problem with research into reduced-risk tobacco products – researchers set up their equipment to work in unrealistic ways. Several studies on e-cigs have turned out worthless because the machinery took puffs that were too long and too close together, producing dry hits and high levels of toxic substances that no real vaper would ever experience.

To carry out the actual experiment the machine produced vapour from the Glo and exposed the cells to it continuously for one hour; as a control, a second sample was exposed to smoke from a standard cigarette. Then, 24 hours after the experiment, cells were harvested and broken down to extract their DNA; which was then examined for changes. The process was repeated after another 24 hours to check for damage that took longer to show up. Then the results for Glo were compared with those for the cigarette.

Does Glo cause cancer?

The difference was dramatic. After 24 hours cigarette smoke had caused observable changes in 2,206 genes; Glo vapour had affected one. By 48 hours 2,727 genes were showing a reaction to the smoke, while all genes from the Glo sample were normal. After the researchers adjusted the figures to get a worst-case scenario Glo was still only affecting two genes, while smoke affected 2.809.

It’s obvious from this that Glo’s heated tobacco vapour has much less effect on DNA than cigarette smoke does – in fact, it would be interesting to see a comparison between Glo vapour and city air. So why are BAT insisting that “these results do not necessarily mean this product is less harmful than other tobacco products”? The reality is that’s exactly what these results mean, but heat not burn is in a complicated legal position just now. Philip Morris are still hoping their iQOS will be classed as a reduced risk product by the US FDA, which would allow them to advertise it as less harmful; Glo hasn’t reached that stage yet. Until it does we can expect BAT to be very cautious about what they say, to avoid any damaging legal challenges.

The reality, however, is that this is great news for heat not burn. The gene changes caused by cigarette smoke are known to be linked to lung cancer, as well as fibrosis and inflammation of lung tissue. The new research – which has been peer reviewed, and will be published in the medical journal Scientific Reports – shows that Glo is not causing these changes.

While the health effects of cigarettes are complicated, some things are quite simple. If Glo isn’t causing the gene changes that lead to cancer, it’s not going to give you that type of cancer. That doesn’t mean there are no health risks at all – we can’t say that about anything – but what we can say is that many of the ways cigarettes cause cancer just aren’t possible with Glo.

Earlier research into Glo shows that levels of toxic substances in the vapour are between 90% and 95% lower than in cigarette smoke. That fits together well with the new study. There isn’t a simple relationship between levels of a chemical and the effects it has. Some people make wild claims, such as “There’s no safe level of cigarette smoke!”, but the truth is there’s a safe level of anything. There’s a safe level for things like cyanide and arsenic. It might be a very low safe level, but it exists.

We’re probably fine

My guess – and it is a guess, but a reasonably informed one – is that the level of toxic chemicals in Glo vapour is low enough that it’s below the threshold where it’s going to do any harm. It seems reasonable to believe, based on the evidence we have so far, that using Glo or a similar product is going to eliminate most of the risks of smoking. Common sense backs this up; it isn’t nicotine or even tobacco that kills smokers – it’s smoke. Glo isn’t producing any smoke, so it’s sensible to assume we’re not going to see the same problems.

The last thing to say about this research is that it’s going to be attacked because of who carried it out. We’ve seen that already with research on iQOS, just because PMI paid for it – they didn’t even do the work themselves. BAT have tested Glo in their own labs, but they’ve handed over the data for peer review and it’s been approved of by experts. That won’t stop people attacking it, but they’ll attack the source because they can’t attack the data itself. So far the science is looking good for heated tobacco products, and that’s what counts.

Selling iQOS and HEETS

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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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PAX 3 Review – Does it match the hype?

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the next device we looked at on Heat not Burn UK would be the PAX 3 from Pax Labs. That’s sparked some excitement from just about everyone I know who’s ever used a loose-leaf vaporiser to inhale anything, which didn’t really come as a surprise. After all, if there’s a device that every other vaporiser on the market ends up being measured against, the PAX 3 is it.

This gadget is the follow-on to the already legendary PAX 2, and it follows the same basic principles. There are some significant upgrades, though, including improved battery life and better software. It also adds the ability to use wax concentrates, but that isn’t something we’ll be looking at – our only interest in the device is how good it is for vaping tobacco.

Last month we reviewed the Vapour 2 Pro Series 7, which works on the same principle as the PAX 3; it has an internal chamber that you can load up with tobacco, and when you power it up the contents of the chamber get heated enough to release a vapour that you can inhale. It doesn’t get heated enough to actually burn the tobacco, so you avoid all the tar, carbon monoxide and other assorted cag that cigarettes create.

Although the basic principle is the same as the Series 7, the PAX 3 has a few major differences in how it’s laid out. In fact, while the Series 7 turned out to be pretty impressive after I figured out how to use it, the PAX feels like it’s in a whole different class. The question is, did its performance measure up? Let’s find out.

The Review

I think I mentioned in one of my videos that HnB products tend to come in really nice boxes. Well, the PAX 3 takes that to a whole new level. This is the nicest box I’ve seen for any kind of vaporiser. In fact it’s probably the nicest box I’ve ever seen for anything that didn’t come from a jeweller’s shop and cost a month’s wages.

PAX 3 presentation boxThe usual cardboard sleeve slides off to reveal a box that opens like a book, revealing two fold-out covers. One has a discreet Pax logo in the middle; the other side says, equally discreetly, “Accessories”. The two halves of the box don’t flap about, by the way. They stay respectably closed, although there aren’t any visible magnets. I investigated with a magnetic field detector (I have some odd stuff) and, sure enough, there are two small but powerful magnets actually embedded in the sides of the box.

Desperate to get to the good stuff, I opened the flap with the Pax logo and there was the vaporiser, sitting all alone in a little cut-out. It’s much simpler than the Vapour 2 Pro, bordering on minimalist; the body is a single piece of anodised aluminium, polished to a glassy finish, with a rubber top cap and plastic base. It’s slightly chunkier than the PAX 2 but still very compact and slim. There are no visible controls; on the front there’s just a Pax logo illuminated by four LEDs; on the back you’ll find two brass contacts, the device name and serial number.

It turns out the only control is under the rubber top cap, which also serves as a mouthpiece; to turn it on you just press down on the centre of the cap until the Pax logo lights up. Holding the button for two seconds opens the temperature select mode. There are four temperature options; press the button to cycle through them, and the petals on the logo light up one by one to show how hot it will get.

The plastic bottom cap covers the heating chamber; just press one side of it and it pops out. The chamber itself looks slightly smaller than the Vapour 2 Pro’s, and there’s a replaceable metal screen at the bottom to keep tobacco out of the device’s innards.

The PAX 3 is beautifully made; there’s no other words for it. The finish is perfect (although a bit of a fingerprint magnet) and everything fits together immaculately. It’s also very light – lighter than the Vapour 2 Pro or any e-cig I own – but feels strong and solid. A definite ten out of ten for workmanship.

Anyway, as I took the vaporiser out, I noticed that the card around it was loose. Removing that, I found it concealed two more items – the charger and USB cable. The charger is a simple cradle that you lay the device on, and magnets will line the contacts up correctly. It’s very simple to use, and should also be well sealed and robust.PAX 3 box opened showing unit

The other side of the box has lots of stuff in it, and some of it’s not too obvious at first. There’s a card on top, giving instructions on how to register the device and download the Pax app (do both). Then, underneath, is an assortment of bits and pieces. A white pad conceals the tiny instruction manual, which you should definitely read. There’s a key ring, which turns out to be a simple multitool; its rubber body is for tamping leaves into the heating chamber, and the inlaid metal strip with the Pax logo is a cleaning tool. A box marked “Maintenance kit” holds some pipe cleaners and a brush.

Next, there’s another mouthpiece and two bases. The standard mouthpiece is flat, with a slot at one side for the vapour. The spare one is raised, if you prefer that shape. There’s also a base with an inner chamber for wax concentrates, which we won’t bother with, and a second dry herb one with an insert to let you half-fill the chamber. That might be important for certain herbs, but it isn’t with tobacco – the chamber isn’t huge. So we won’t bother with that one either. Finally, you get three spare screens for the heating chamber and an extra O-ring for the concentrate chamber.

The next step was to charge the battery, which was easy and only took a couple of hours. The charger really is easy to use, and the Pax logo shows how the battery’s doing. The four “petals” of the logo will pulse white and progressively light up as the charge rises, and glow solidly when it hits 100%.

PAX 3 accessoriesSo, back to how it works. As you might have guessed, the heating chamber and mouthpiece are at opposite ends on the PAX 3. To load the chamber you remove the bottom cap, load your tobacco and put the cap back on. A narrow tube runs through the body and opens into a small chamber just under the mouthpiece. This arrangement lets the vapour cool down before you inhale it; apparently this helps when you’re vaping herbs, but I’m not sure it’s so necessary with tobacco.

Right, on to the test! I loaded the chamber with tobacco from a fresh pouch, taking care not to pack it too tightly, then activated the PAX 3. This is easy; just press the button – don’t hold; just press. Instantly the LEDs in the logo flash white, then turn purple – when they’re purple that means the PAX is heating up. And it heats up fast. Even with the temperature set to maximum the logo turned from purple to green in less than 25 seconds, and that was it ready to go. All that was left was to start vaping it.

This is where things get a bit mixed. Here’s the good news: With the temperature set at maximum, the vapour from the PAX 3 is the best I’ve found from any Heat not Burn device so far. There’s plenty of it and the taste is great. After one puff I was extremely impressed. After the second I was pretty much ecstatic. Then it started to go downhill.

The third puff gave almost no vapour at all, and the next couple were the same. There was still a faint taste, but it wasn’t very satisfying. At this point I put the device down and let it sit for a moment to build up vapour, then tried again. By doing that I got a couple more reasonable puffs out of it, but then it dried up for good.

Unlike the Vapour 2 Pro the PAX 3 doesn’t automatically cut off after a set time; you have to switch it off using the button (it will turn off if it’s left untouched for three minutes). So I turned it off, let it cool down, emptied the chamber (the cleaning tool works very well) and had a poke at the tobacco. It was bone dry, so my guess is that it stopped producing vapour because there was nothing left to evaporate.

PAX 3 viewed from top showing tobacco insideWhat I think is happening is that the PAX 3 is a victim of its own success. The design of the heating chamber is obviously great. It’s very efficient, probably because of its shape – it’s quite long and narrow, so the contents heat up very quickly and evenly. That means the first couple of puffs are great. The problem is, the first couple of puffs basically contain all the moisture in the tobacco. I also tried it on a lower temperature setting, but this radically dropped the quality of the first puffs and didn’t really extend the session by much; you might get five puffs instead of two, but they were nowhere near as good.

If you’re trying to replicate the experience of smoking this is a bit of a drawback. You can expect to get about ten good puffs from a cigarette, but you’re going to have to reload the PAX 3 four or five times to match that.

IQOS special offer

Conclusion

From everything I’ve heard about the PAX 3, it’s unrivalled as a device for vaping substances of a more herbal nature – but, for tobacco, it doesn’t have the same edge. It’s a beautifully made device with good battery life (it packs in 3,500mAh, compared to the PAX 2’s 3,000mAh), and it’s simple to use, but if you’re mainly interested in tobacco I don’t think it’s the best option. If you really want a loose-leaf tobacco vaporiser the Vapour 2 is at least as good and a lot cheaper; if convenience and performance are what matters most, go for an iQOS.

Video Review

 

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Heat not Burn in 2017 – A pretty good year!

Heat not burn in 2017

So we’re into the last month of 2017 and the end of the year is approaching fast. Christmas is three weeks away, and it’s likely quite a few smokers will be finding an iQOS starter kit under the tree as friends and family try to nudge them in a safer direction. Well, it might be a few smokers – or it might be a lot of smokers. Because 2017 has been a big year for Heat not Burn.

A lot has changed in the reduced-harm tobacco market since January. We’ve seen new products appear, and existing ones rolled out to wider audiences. HnB has started to attract attention from health researchers and lawmakers – which isn’t always a good thing, of course, but it’s an inevitable part of getting the products on sale. So, as Christmas decorations go up and the snow comes down, let’s have a look back at what 2017 has meant for Heat not Burn.

iQOS goes global

When iQOS was first released it was only available in a few test markets, but towards the end of 2016 it began appearing more widely. The UK’s first iQOS store opened in December 2016, and there are now three in London. Last year the product was almost unheard of, but now it’s becoming much better known.

The big challenge for iQOS is the US market. Before it can go on sale it has to be licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, and in March Philip Morris submitted the paperwork to have iQOS classed as a “Modified Risk Tobacco Product”. That application hasn’t been approved yet, but hopefully it should be decided next year. If the FDA approve it – and it’s hard to see how they can refuse – expect iQOS to be a big hit among US smokers.

UPDATE (Feb 2018) It was refused.

Meanwhile, the statistics coming out of Japan show just how much potential iQOS has. PMI say they can’t keep up with demand, and every new batch they deliver sells out right away. iQOS really seems to have made an impression – and cigarette sales in Japan fell by an astonishing 11% in the first six months of this year, as smokers moved to HnB.

The growth of Glo

So far iQOS doesn’t have any serious rivals as a mainstream HnB product, but that’s likely to change soon. BAT’s competing Glo was launched in Japan last year; now the market testing has been expanded to South Korea, and next year we can expect it to start hitting other countries. The UK is a likely candidate, thanks to a generally positive attitude to reduced-risk products; BAT will also want to build a presence before iQOS becomes too firmly established as the market leader.

Glo is also the product we have most hands-on experience with at Heat not Burn UK – we did the first UK review of the product a few months ago, following a sneak preview back in February when Dick Puddlecote managed to get his hands on one. That experience was pretty convincing – Glo has a lot of potential, and we think smokers are going to like it when it hits the UK shelves.

Heat not Burn UK visits PMI

In April we were offered the chance to send someone to PMI’s research facility at The Cube in Neuchatel, Switzerland, to see what progress is being made on HnB. This gave us a chance to look at the latest science on the safety of iQOS, which is very encouraging, as well as seeing how HEETs are made in the Neuchatel factory.

What really encouraged us is that PMI aren’t just pinning all their hopes on a single product. They know that electronic devices like iQOS (or e-cigarettes) don’t work for everyone – they’re not a lot of use for people who spend long periods working outdoors or at sea, for example – so they’re working on four separate non-cigarette devices. These include a charcoal-heated cigarette and a device that creates nicotine vapour through a chemical reaction, as well as iQOS and the Mesh e-cigarette.

Lil joins the race

South Korea is a popular test market for HnB products, with iQOS and Glo both going on sale there early in their careers. Now the country’s own industries are waking up to the possibilities. Korean Tobacco & Ginseng have developed their own device, the Lil, which also heats tobacco sticks to create a vapour.

Lil is on limited release in South Korea just now, but should be rolled out across the country quite soon. The question is whether KT&G plan to market it globally. So far they haven’t announced any plans, but H&B isn’t a crowded market right now. This would be a huge opportunity for them to build a global presence.

We’ve contacted KT&G to ask if we can have a Lil for review, but haven’t heard back from them yet. Hopefully we’ll have some news on that soon, because it’s an interesting-looking device and we think it deserves a wide audience.

Looking forward

So this has been an exciting year for Heat not Burn; the technology is making its way into the mainstream, hundreds of millions of people around the world are able to buy the products, and that number is set to grow fast in 2018. If what we’ve seen from Japan is any guide, there’s a possibility that HnB could overtake e-cigarettes as the favourite alternative to smoking within a few years.

In any case, 2017 isn’t quite over yet. There are still a few weeks to go before New Year, and the team at Heat not Burn UK won’t be taking that time off. There will be a video review for the Vapour 2 Pro we’ve been testing for the last month, and we also have a new toy to play with – the PAX 3. This is the latest upgrade of the PAX 2, the most respected loose-leaf vaporiser on the market, and there’s one sitting on the table in HnB UK’s secret headquarters. That will be getting unboxed soon, and tested over the next couple of weeks, so drop in to see what we think of it!