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Heat not Burn in 2017 – A pretty good year!

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.

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!

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Will heat not Burn make Britain 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.

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Beyond iQOS and Glo – What other options are there?

Over the last few months this site has been focusing quite heavily on iQOS and its BAT rival, Glo. We make no apologies for that; they’re both excellent products, they’re either on the market or will be soon, and we think millions of smokers are going to enjoy them as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. If you’re interested in switching to heat not burn, iQOS is probably your best option in most countries. Glo isn’t widely available yet, but we can expect BAT to start rolling it out beyond its Japanese test market as soon as they’ve ramped up production of NeoStiks.

We’re fair-minded people, though, and we don’t want to give Philip Morris and British American all the publicity, so this week we’re going to look at a few less well known products that are either available, have come and gone or are planned for the near future. Some of them are promising; some of them are flops. But we think they deserve some attention anyway.

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V2 Pro

The V2 Pro was originally released about three years ago, and although it’s never really taken off it’s survived and gone through several upgrades. The standard models use a proprietary magnetic connector to let you switch between different atomisers, which included a conventional e-cigarette tank and a loose leaf version. That has some power limits, though, so V2 have diversified their range and produced a dedicated tobacco vaporiser.

V2’s Pro Series 7 is a chunky but compact device about the size of a highlighter pen. Its oval body has a built-in battery, charged through a magnetic port, and at the other end is a removable mouthpiece. Pull that off and you’ll find a generously sized vaporising chamber that can be filled with your favourite loose leaf ingredient – we’d suggest a good pipe tobacco.

We haven’t managed to test the Series 7 ourselves (although we will if anybody wants to send us one) but it looks very promising. This could give the popular Pax 2 a run for its money in the loose leaf category.

iSmoke One Hitter

Similar in concept to the original V2 Pro, this is another pen-style vaping device that looks a bit like an eGo or Evod – but, instead of a clearomiser for e-liquid, it has a loose leaf atomiser that will hold almost a gram of tobacco.

If you’re looking for an affordable intro to HnB, this might be ideal. It only seems to be on sale in the USA right now, but the recommended price is a tempting $19.99. With traditional loose leaf devices averaging about $150 for a good one I’d be tempted to try this myself. It’s compact, looks simple and seems to do a pretty good job of turning tobacco into vapour without burning it.

Pax 3

We’ve talked about the Pax 2 before. It’s one of the most highly regarded loose leaf vaporisers out there, and has built a solid reputation for good build quality, excellent performance and durability(even if the $200 price tag is a bit steep). Now its makers have gone one better, and introduced the unimaginatively named Pax 3.

If the older model is too expensive for you, look away now; the Pax 3 costs an eye-watering $275. It delivers a lot for your money, though. As well as the high quality we’ve come to expect from this company it has some nice tweaks and a couple of completely new features.

The Pax 3 is mainly designed for “dry herbs”, but also works very well with hand-rolling or pipe tobacco. It has a capacious chamber that will hold enough tobacco to give you a satisfying vape session, plus the option to load a smaller amount and use a spacer to keep it well packed.

One issue many people had with the Pax 2 was the mouthpiece overheating, but a new design in the 3 fixes that. It keeps the bottom-mounted heating chamber, which also means the vapour has a chance to cool slightly before reaching your mouth.

Finally, the Pax 3 can now be controlled and adjusted through an iOS or Android app. Which lets you adjust the heating temperature to taste. This makes for a very versatile device, and if you don’t mind the price tag it’s hard to think of a better loose leaf vapouriser.

Ploom Model2

The original Ploom was developed by the people who now make the Pax series, but the technology and name were bought by JTO a couple of years ago and updated into the PloomTech. Some of the original Model 2 kits are still kicking around, though, and if you can get one they’re definitely worth a try.

Ploom 2 is similar to iQOS and Glo in that it uses proprietary tobacco inserts – but these are very different to the cigarette-like Heets or NeoStiks. Instead they’re tiny, bullet-shaped capsules made of heavy foil, which drop into the heating chamber and get punctured by the mouthpiece. A heating coil vaporises the tobacco, and you get a mouthful of aromatic fumes.

Overall this works pretty well – not as well as iQOS, but it’s less like a cigarette if that bothers you. The capsules come in a decent variety of flavours, too.

 

So will any of these devices take the heat not burn market by storm? If I’m honest here, probably not. None of them have the marketing clout behind them that Glo and iQOS do, and none of them are really as good either. The loose leaf devices are tarred with the illegal drugs brush – they work fine with tobacco, but tobacco isn’t what anyone sees you using one is going to think of. They can also be very expensive to buy. Of course you’ll then save on the cost of tobacco, but it’s still a lot of money to hand over for a small gadget.

It’s always worth keeping an eye on the market, though. This is a fast-moving technology, and with iQOS proving popular everywhere it’s available (and Glo doing very well in Japan, apparently) a lot of companies are going to try to move in. Most of them will fail, but there’s always the chance of some very nice products appearing. We’ll certainly be looking out for anything interesting!

 

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Heat not Burn UK exclusive – BAT Glo review

If there’s a bad thing about heat not burn it’s that the latest products aren’t widely available yet. That’s slowly changing as they roll out across new markets, but when we reviewed iQOS last summer it was only on sale in a handful of countries – and the UK wasn’t one of them. Obviously we were very excited about doing one of the first UK reviews of a product that’s turned out to be a real game changer.

Well, now we’ve done it again. British American Tobacco’s new Glo is only available in Japan and South Korea right now, but Heat Not Burn UK have managed to get our hands on one and, as promised, it’s now been through a full review.

You might remember that we did a preliminary review of the Glo a while ago. That was interesting, but it did have some limits. The main ones were that it was a borrowed device, there weren’t many sticks with it, and the person who actually had it was at the other end of a Skype conversation and half way down a bottle of wine. It did give an idea of what Glo was like, but couldn’t match up to actually having one right here to play with and use regularly for a couple of days.

Anyway, on to the review:

Hands-on at last!

Unlike the last time we reviewed a Glo, this one came with the full retail packaging. The lid of the sturdy box comes off to reveal the Glo itself in a plastic tray; lift the tray out and you’ll find another one holding a USB cable, cleaning brush and warranty card.

Glo, unpacked.

Glo looks and feels very different from the iQOS. Instead of a slim tube about the size of a medium cigar, it’s more similar to a single-18650 box mod. In fact, although I haven’t taken it to bits, I suspect that’s what powers it. The wider edge of its nicely round aluminium body is exactly the right size to hold an 18650.

The device feels well-made and solid, without being too heavy – it’s noticeably lighter than a slightly smaller box mod. The end caps are grey plastic, with a glossy finish on the top one. The top cap also has a cover that slides open to reveal the NeoStik holder. On the bottom there’s a micro-USB charging port and a small plastic flap with a ring of tiny holes in the middle. Closed, this allows enough airflow for the device to work; slide it towards its hinge and let it go, and it springs open to allow access for the cleaning brush.

The bottom cover opens for cleaning.

Apart from that there isn’t a lot to see. Everything is operated by a single metal button on the front of the device, set in an LED-illuminated ring. Well, I say “everything” but there isn’t really much to control except for turning it on.

To use the Glo, all you have to do is slide the top cover back and insert a NeoStik into the hole. Push it down until there’s only about an inch sticking out the top – it sometimes seems to stick a bit near the bottom, but you won’t break it. Then all you have to do is press the button and wait.

Glo seems to heat up slightly faster than iQOS – probably because it only goes to 240°C, instead of 350°C – and you can easily tell when it’s ready. Firstly, the LED ring around the button progressively lights up; when it’s fully illuminated you’re ready to go. Just in case you get distracted the device will vibrate and buzz when it’s at running temperature. Then all you have to do is start puffing.

When the device thinks the stick is done it will vibrate again and turn itself off; just pull out the stick, dispose of it and close the top cover. If you use it the way you’d smoke it runs for long enough to take ten or a dozen puffs – just like a cigarette. The question is, does it deliver the same experience?

Using the Glo

My Glo came with two packs of NeoStiks, one each in Menthol and Bright Tobacco flavour, both carrying the Kent brand. I played with the device for a few days, vaping a menthol stick every couple of hours as a change from my e-cigs – my plan was to keep the regular tobacco sticks for a full-day trial, as I was never a menthol smoker. I also cut one of them up for the last article.

I have to say, though, the menthol sticks were pretty good. The taste and sensation they delivered were exactly like a Consulate or Marlboro menthol, so these sticks are a definite win. If you smoke menthols right now, I think you’re going to like the Glo.

Ready to go!

Anyway, last Friday morning I made sure the Glo was fully charged, put all my e-cigs away in a cupboard for the day, and broke out the bright tobacco sticks. I loaded one into the device, hit the button and waited for it to heat up. Then I vaped it.

Well, it was pretty good. It wasn’t like the high-tar cigarettes I used to like, but if you smoke Marlboro Gold it’s very close to that experience. There’s no shortage of nicotine hit, and the vapour replicates the taste of cigarette smoke very well.

One stick isn’t much of a test though; what I wanted to know was, could I use the Glo all day? Would it be satisfying enough to keep a smoker off the cigarettes? So, after my first stick, there were nineteen more to go. And I got through them all.

It worked, too. At no point did I feel that the sticks weren’t satisfying enough, and I usually sub-ohm 24mg e-liquid. I found myself reaching for the pack of sticks about every 40 minutes through the day. Using it was easy, too, and I didn’t find the short wait for it to heat up all that annoying. Once a stick is finished you can just drop it in the bin – there’s no need for ashtrays, and you won’t get flakes of ash all over the place either.

One thing I did notice was that there’s a distinct tobacco smell. By the end of the day my office smelled as if someone had smoked a couple of cigarettes in it. That was completely gone by next morning, though, with no stale aroma hanging around. Would it become more persistent if you used Glo every day? I don’t know the answer to that one.

Compared to iQOS the Glo isn’t quite as satisfying, probably because of its lower running temperature. To compensate, it’s a lot easier to use because you don’t need to worry about battery life so much.

When we first discussed the Glo, one interesting point was the claimed battery capacity. iQOS needs to be recharged frequently; the larger Glo packs in a lot more power storage, and BAT said a single charge would be enough to vape more than 30 NeoStiks. I admit to being sceptical about this, but it’s true.

After vaping a full pack of twenty sticks, the power indicator – that LED ring around the button again – showed the battery still had half its charge left. That’s pretty impressive, and means a single charge should keep a Glo in action all day.

Our verdict

Does Glo deliver exactly the same experience as smoking? Not quite – but it’s very close. If e-cigarettes don’t quite do it for you this gadget will definitely be worth a try when it starts appearing in your market.

 

 

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Inside the NeoStik

A couple of months ago we looked at what’s inside one of the Heets that PMI’s iQOS is fed with. That’s turned out to be quite a popular post, which isn’t really a surprise. After all, it’s an exciting new technology and people want to know how it works.

Heat not Burn UK is an impartial site, though, and we don’t want to give too much free publicity to PMI, so the next two posts will be dedicated to British American Tobacco’s Glo. This has featured in our articles before, and we even did a limited review of it, but now we’re in a position to go a bit further. Although Glo has only been released in a couple of test markets so far, we now have one and a supply of NeoStiks for it. The next article here will be a full review of the Glo, based on using it exclusively for a couple of days.

This time we’re going to look at the innards of a NeoStik, just to see how it compares to a Heet. The two products are very similar in concept, so as you’d expect they’re put together quite similarly as well. The most obvious difference is the shape – NeoStiks are much longer and slimmer than Heets, so there’s no way to use one kind of stick in the other kind of device.

We’ll look inside a NeoStik in a minute, but first let’s go back to something that’s been said on this blog a few times – that you can’t put a Heet or NeoStik in your mouth, light the end and smoke it. Well, I still don’t know if you can do this with a Heet (and I suspect you can’t) but with a NeoStik? Yes, you can. They burn just like a normal cigarette, so you can smoke them. It’s not a good idea, though.

For a start, they only last for a few puffs, so even if the sticks end up being significantly cheaper than cigarettes it would be a very expensive way to smoke. The other problem is that after those few puffs there’s a strong taste of burning plastic. The internal components of the NeoStik are made to resist its operating temperature of about 240°C; if you light it things get much hotter. The smoke from a burning NeoStik isn’t any healthier than a cigarette, and once you start inhaling the plastic bits it’s probably a good bit worse. So don’t smoke them.

Investigating the NeoStik

Let’s assume you’re going to be sensible and use your NeoStiks in your shiny new Glo, like you’re supposed to. What exactly is it you’re slotting into the gadget?

Like a Heet, a NeoStik sort of resembles a miniature cigarette. However, where a Heet is the same diameter as a cigarette but much shorter, a NeoStik is about the same length as a cigarette but much slimmer. Here’s a side by side comparison of the two. If the Heet looks a bit scruffy that’s because it’s the empty paper from the one that was dissected for the article back in June, but you can still get a good idea of the size:

Heet (front) and NeoStik

The NeoStik on its own is a very neat, slim item. As you can see from the grid on the board, it’s about 84mm long – the same length as a standard king-size cigarette. It’s only about half the diameter though. So anyway, what’s inside it? Time to get the scalpel out and slice it down the middle:

Straight away we can see why it’s possible to smoke a NeoStik. Unlike the Heet, which contains a small plug of rolled, reconstituted tobacco sheet, half the length of the NeoStik is filled with what looks like normal cigarette tobacco. So that answers that one. Now, what’s the rest of it?

Unfortunately the NeoStik couldn’t be dismantled the same way as the Heet could, because apart from the tobacco all the bits are firmly glued to the paper and can’t be removed without ripping the whole thing to shreds. It’s possible to see what’s in there, though.

Just above the tobacco is a rigid plastic lining that extends the full remaining length of the stick. Over half of it is empty, and there’s nothing between this empty section and the tobacco, which is why there are little bits of shredded leaf visible inside it in the photos – the scalpel blade pulled them with it. However, unless you cut the stick up the tobacco is firmly packed enough that it won’t go anywhere, and it wouldn’t matter much if it did.

Next there’s the filter. Like the Heet’s filter it’s very short, probably so it doesn’t absorb too much of the vapour. With these products there isn’t really any need for much of a filter, because the vapour contains little or no solid particulates. Finally, the end that forms the mouthpiece is empty – there’s just the plastic lining to keep it rigid.

A familiar concept

So the internal structure of a NeoStik isn’t that different from a Heet; it has most of the same parts, although they’re put together differently. This is probably because it works in a different way. The iQOS has a blade that the Heet is pushed down onto, and when the device is switched on this heats  up.

Glo doesn’t have a blade; if you open the cover on the air intake at the bottom you can look right through the device. Instead, there’s a heating coil around this tube; it heats up the part of the NeoStik with the tobacco in it. If you look at a used stick you can see where the heat has slightly darkened the paper in and above this section:

So there you have it. This is BAT’s take on a heat not burn product, and while it follows the same principles as iQOS there are a few tweaks to how they’ve done it. How does it compare? The next article will be all about that!

 

 

 

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iQOS Update – What’s Inside A Heet

One of the most popular pages on this site is our review of Philip Morris’s innovative iQOS device. That’s not much of a surprise, because iQOS has probably had more publicity than any other Heat not Burn product and it’s also the most widely available. It’s steadily rolling out beyond the first test markets and can now be bought in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and several other countries; before too long it will be available globally, and I think it’s going to be a huge success.

When Heat not Burn UK first tested the iQOS the only sticks that came with it were mild menthols. Those were not as satisfying as they could have been, but did prove the concept. Happily, during our visit to PMI’s research centre at Neuchatel a couple of months ago there was no shortage of them in all flavours, and I got the chance to try an iQOS with a full-strength stick. I’m happy to report that it was very close to the experience of smoking a Marlboro, and an excellent substitute in every way.

Sticky Stuff

Obviously, what made the difference between “Meh, this is okay” on the first iQOS test and “Wow!” on the second one was the sticks it was being fed with. That means it’s probably time to look at the sticks themselves in a bit more detail.

The baby cigarettes that go in the end of an iQOS were originally called HeatSticks, but they’ve now been rebranded as “Heets from Marlboro”. Currently Heets come in three flavours – Amber, which roughly equates to full-strength Marlboro Red; Yellow, a lighter Marlboro Gold; and Turquoise, the mild menthol version. As far as I can tell these all have the same nicotine content, and the only difference is in the flavour.

Anyway, I just called them baby cigarettes. They’re not. Yes, they look like baby cigarettes, and they come in a tiny pack of twenty, but you can’t stick them in your mouth and fire them up with your trusty Zippo. That just won’t work. Even if it did work it would be pretty pointless, because the whole idea is that you don’t burn the tobacco.

In fact there really isn’t a lot of tobacco in there to burn, anyway. Looking at a Heet, you can see that the filter seems to take up about three-quarters of its length:

There are quite a few bits in here.

Not Just Tobacco

It’s not quite this simple, but we’ll come back to that. What’s in the other quarter is the stuff that gets heated, and I’ve actually had the chance to watch it being made in the factory at Neuchatel. PMI made me promise not to put all their trade secrets on the internet, but I can tell you the basics. What they do is blend selected tobaccos to get the flavour they want, then grind them to a fine powder. This is then mixed with water and some other ingredients – vegetable glycerine to keep it moist and generate the vapour; natural cellulose fibres to bind it; and guar (a natural gum) to hold the whole lot together.

This liquid mixture is sprayed onto a conveyor belt, run through a dryer then peeled off in thin sheets. The brown stuff in the end of a Heet is those sheets, rolled up like tobacco leaves in a cigar. When you load a Heet into your iQOS a steel blade in the device cuts into the roll, and when the blade heats up it creates the vapour for you to inhale. That vapour is mostly VG, loaded with aromatic flavours from the tobacco – which is why iQOS can replicate the flavour of a cigarette in a way that e-cigs can never quite manage.

So what else is in a Heet? Well, it’s not just the filter. In fact the filter itself is very short, as you can see:

From left to right: The tobacco, hollow tube, PLA and filter.

The actual filter is even smaller than the plug of tobacco at the other end, and it’s really only there to give you the familiar feel of a cigarette filter. Because iQOS doesn’t produce all the harsh combustion compounds you get from a cigarette there’s no real need for much filtration, so it can be very short. In fact if it was much longer it would probably soak up a lot of the VG vapour that you want to inhale.

After the filter is a loose roll of PLA, a very stable, food-safe plastic material. This is what does the real work; it slows the vapour down without absorbing it, giving it time to cool to a more pleasant temperature before you inhale it. This takes up almost half the length of the entire Heet.

Between the PLA and the tobacco is a short length of hollow tube, made of a similar material to the filter. As far as I understand it this is mainly to keep the blade away from the PLA and give the vapour a clear path to start its journey through the Heet. Then finally, at the end, you’ll find that little plug of tobacco.

Small But Complicated

So a Heet might look like a cigarette, but inside it’s a bit more complicated. This, and the fact they’re so small, means they’re also trickier to make; PMI had to do some creative rebuilding of some old but reliable cigarette-making machines to come up with something that would make Heets.

All this effort has paid off, though. It might be tiny, but a Heet will give as many puffs as a full-size cigarette. If you get the strength that suits you those puffs are just as satisfying, too. I had a few lingering doubts about iQOS after my first experiment with it in Poland last year, but using an identical device with Amber Heets was a totally different experience.

What’s most exciting is that, while iQOS isn’t the first generation of this technology, it’s still at a relatively early stage; there’s a lot of potential for development in there. I’m increasingly sure that HnB products like this have a very bright future in front of them.

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

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

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

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

War is hell – for e-cigs

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

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

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

What’s the solution?

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping it simple

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

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

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BAT’s glo – sneak preview

A couple of months ago we looked at BAT’s glo, their stick-fed iQOS rival that’s currently being trialled in Japan. It still hasn’t been released in other markets, and BAT haven’t revealed their plans for it yet, so it could be a while before smokers in the UK have a chance to try it. Just so you know what you’re waiting for, however, Heat Not Burn UK set out to track one down. It was a struggle, but last week one of our agents finally managed to get his hands on the elusive device.

Because of how our glo was obtained (no, we didn’t steal it) it didn’t come in its usual retail packaging, so that won’t be included in this review. It did come with a full pack of Bright Tobacco sticks to feed it with, so it was thoroughly tested as well as being poked, prodded and generally fiddled with. So what’s it like?

The device

The Glo is a neat, simple device. The silver oval on top slides to reveal the NeoStik socket.

The glo device looks like a small, simple box mod e-cigarette. It’s about the height and thickness of a pack of cigarettes, and maybe two-thirds of the width. The aluminium body is rounded on both sides, making it comfortable to hold, and it’s not too heavy. It does feel solid and well made, and the build quality looks excellent. The end caps are textured plastic, the metal body has a nice satin finish and there’s a laser-etched glo logo on the front.

Looking at the top, there’s an oval silver cover. On the bottom is a micro-USB charging port and a small cover that looks like it should open, but was left well alone in case it broke. After some discussion we think that’s the airflow vent; there has to be some place for air to flow into the heating chamber so you can inhale the vapour, and we couldn’t see anything else that might do that job.

The only actual control on the glo is a single button on the front. Its placement looks odd if you’re used to e-cigs; most box mods now have the fire button on one side, because that way it falls naturally under your thumb. However the glo’s button is just the on/off switch, and you won’t need to touch it when you’re actually using the device. The button itself is metal and surrounded by a ring of translucent plastic, which turns out to be LED-illuminated – but we’ll get to that.

The Tobacco

Like the iQOS, glo uses cigarette-like sticks which BAT call NeoStiks. Compared to PMI’s HeatSticks these are longer and slimmer – almost exactly the same size as a traditional cigarette. Instead of a filter there’s a hollow plastic tube, which makes sense – why fit a filter when there’s no smoke? The centre of the stick is filled with finely shredded tobacco. Actually it looks like the bottom is, too, but BAT say that’s not tobacco. It could be shredded cork or something similar.

In Japan the NeoStiks are priced about the same as normal cigarettes, as are iQOS HeatSticks. Industry gossip suggests the reason for this is that nobody’s quite sure how they’ll be taxed yet, so BAT and PMI are both playing it safe. If they end up being taxed at a lower rate the price may fall in the future.

Some of the stuff inside is tobacco. Some, according to BAT, isn’t.

How does it work?

Using the glo is very simple. The cover on top slides to one side, revealing a hole about the size of a cigarette. All you have to do is insert a NeoStik into this hole until it won’t go any further. This is quite simple, like the iQOS, as long as you don’t rush it.

Once the stick is fully inserted all you have to do is press the button to turn the glo on, then wait for it to warm up. Progress can be tracked by watching the surround on the button; this progressively lights up as the coil temperature rises, the glow of the LEDs advancing clockwise wound the circle, and when the whole thing is illuminated it’s ready to go. Just in case you miss that the glo will also vibrate with a faint buzz when it reaches operating temperature. Then all you have to do is take a puff.

So the big question is, what’s it like? The answer is that it’s very good. Our agent was lucky enough to try the iQOS and glo together, and thinks the glo is just as good at producing vapour and has a slightly better taste. This was a bit surprising, as it runs at a much lower temperature – 240°C, rather than 350°C for its PMI competitor.

Each stick gives about as many puffs as a traditional cigarette, and when the glo decides you’ve fully vaped it, the device will vibrate again and turn itself off. This seems to be aimed at making sure you don’t overheat the tobacco to the point where it starts producing nasties.

Looking at the used stick was interesting. The heat seems to be applied in a narrow ring, just below the end of the plastic tube. It’s hard to say how much of the tobacco is being affected by it. On the other hand it doesn’t matter much, because whatever the glo is doing, it works.

Conclusions

The overall concept of glo is very similar to the iQOS, but BAT have taken a different approach to the hardware. Our first impression is that this has paid off. Battery life is much better than the PMI device – although it’s hard to say yet if it lives up to BAT’s claims of a 30-stick life between charges, because we didn’t get that many sticks. The downside is that the device itself is much bulkier, and unlike iQOS you certainly can’t hold it like a traditional cigarette.

It does seem to do the job, though. There’s a satisfying amount of vapour and the taste is very good. The device itself is simple and well made, and disposing of used sticks is a lot less messy than emptying an ashtray. This is a very interesting product, and if it’s released in the UK we think it has a lot of potential.