Vaping and other digital smoking alternatives are becoming more and more popular in light of new scientific evidence that demonstrates that it’s far healthier than traditional combustion smoking.
While the jury is still out on whether vaping or vaporizing is damaging to the health, it’s obvious that it has a wide range of advantages over traditional cigarettes, and is free from the carcinogenic chemicals that are found in paper and tobacco leaf smokes.
International cigarette companies, predictably, are scrambling to either back anti-vaping research studies or lobby for the stricter regulation of vaping paraphernalia, no doubt in an attempt to secure their profit margins.
While there are still millions and millions of smokers that retain traditional smoking habits, the market segment that has turned to smokeless cigarettes is growing, presenting a serious threat to the ongoing stranglehold that big tobacco has over the lungs of smoking enthusiasts worldwide.
International tobacco juggernaut Philip Morris, however, is making an attempt to keep up with the evolving state of the industry.
Instead of focusing on trying to shut down the nascent vape industry, Philip Morris has recently released a new product that sits at the intersection between vaping and traditional smoking.
The IQOS is described as a hybrid system that fuses traditional, or analog smoking, with electronic cigarettes.
Like traditional cigarettes, the IQOS uses real tobacco leaf, but unlike analog smoking, doesn’t actually combust the leaf- the system instead heats the tobacco leaf up to release the nicotine, vaporizing the moisture content without burning it.
In this article, we’ll check out the IQOS solution, find out how it works, and see how it measures up against other analog smoking alternatives to find out whether it’s a viable option in the rapidly evolving electronic cigarette market.
What Is IQOS?
Vaping and e-cig smoking may provide individuals that want to kick the smoking habit with a far healthier option that doesn’t cause many of the unwanted side effects of smoking analog cigarettes, like discolored teeth, smelly clothes, and bad breath, but for many is an insufficient replacement.
The easily measured, disposable, and combustible nature of analog cigarettes, combined with their unique flavor, keeps many cigarette smokers coming back even after trying electronic solutions. These smokers represent the market segment that Philip Morris is targeting with their new IQOS solution.
The IQOS is marketed as a “smokeless cigarette” and first launched in Milan, Italy, in November 2016. Soon after, Philip Morris released the product in a number of trial markets, including Nagoya, Japan.
The smoking system rapidly gained a large amount of consumer approval, although dedicated electronic cigarette users and vape enthusiasts were somewhat perplexed by the half analog, half electronic nature of the device.
Philip Morris label their solution as a “heated tobacco product” that heats tobacco leaf instead of burning it, releasing flavors and nicotine without combustion through a process they claim has far less negative health benefits.
Although vaping systems have been widely available for other smokable leaf products for over a decade, there has yet to be a functional and effective vape solution that is able to release nicotine and volatile compounds from tobacco leaf. The Philip Morris research and development arm has spent several years in intensive research and development to create a method of preparing tobacco leaf for heating that makes the vaporization process viable.
The CEO of Philip Morris, André Calantzopoulos, states that the development is the “greatest growth opportunity in the years to come” for the company, tapping into the rapidly developing smokeless cigarette market.
How IQOS Works
The IQOS, at a glance, looks very similar to a second-generation electronic cigarette or vape pen, but has a very different function and internal design. The primary difference between the IQOS and vape pens is that instead of vaporizing an e-liquid consisting of a glycol, flavor, and nicotine blend, the IQOS heats up real tobacco leaf.
The IQOS is closer to traditional cigarettes in this regard, but the similarities end with the use of real tobacco. Instead of burning tobacco leaf to generate smoke and release volatile compounds, the IQOS instead heats it up to roughly 350 degrees celsius.
Normal tobacco in a traditional cigarette burns at a temperature in excess of 600 degrees celsius, which releases, in addition to nicotine, ash, carcinogenic compounds, and other harmful chemicals. The resulting vapor released by the tobacco heating method of the IQOS has a smoother flavor profile than normal cigarette smoke, while containing the same nicotine content.
It’s not possible to use just any old rolling tobacco with the IQOS system, however- the tobacco used in the IQOS is treated with glycol to increase the volume of vapor and emulate a traditional smoking experience, provided in the form of Philip Morris “HEETS”, or Heat Sticks.
The Heat Sticks used in the IQOS are small treated sticks of tobacco available in a range of different blends. These sticks are essentially small tobacco plugs that are ground and then reconstituted with added glycol into tobacco sheets, which are then folded, crimped, and transformed into Heat Sticks.
Users place the Heat Stick in the IQOS system, which then heats it up to 350 degrees, releasing the nicotine and flavor compounds. A blade inside the device both delivers the heating effect as well as monitors the temperature of the tobacco plug, ensuring a consistent draw while in use. Each Heat Stick lasts for roughly six minutes, or 14 puffs.
One disadvantage the IQOS has when compared to the fully electronic vaping method is the battery life.
The IQOS must be recharged after each individual use with a charging device, which must be carried with the IQOS holder. The charger is capable of delivering 20 individual charges to the IQOS holder stick.
It’s refreshing to see an international cigarette company providing an alternative to traditional cigarettes and attempting to innovate.
The IQOS solution, however, seems to fall short of the mark- priced at roughly $80 USD, the system has a higher price point than a dedicated vape pen, and with 20 heatsticks priced at $6 USD, there’s not a lot of economic incentive to take up the IQOS platform.
We’re looking forward, however, to seeing more innovation and attempts to diversify from the rapidly-aging analog cigarette industry in future.