Philip Morris has announced that the iQOS electronic cigarette is going to be launched in the UK. It has been on sale in Italy and Japan among other countries. Now we will see how smokers in the UK respond. The iQOS is not like the electronic cigarettes we have become most familiar with. Instead of an e-cig that vaporizes a liquid, the heat not burn iQOS will heat a special iQOS cigarette to 350 degrees C to generate a vapor from the tobacco.
The iQOS is essentially a herbal vaporizer. Basically, you stick a cigarette into the device and you get about 10 to 12 puffs, roughly the same as a cigarette. You do have to use an iQOS tobacco cigarette, and this cigarette is not meant to be lit. I assume because the tobacco is not treated with the accelerants that cigarette tobacco is typically treated with to make it burn relatively quickly. We have not seen an iQOS in the US yet and we don’t know if the tobacco is treated with any of the other additives that you typically find in cigarette tobacco.
At this time we also don’t know what would happen if you put any conventional tobacco cigarette into the device and attempted to vape it. We could speculate that the heavily comically treated and very dry cigarette tobacco would not vaporize very well.
Heat Not Burn Is Nothing New
A heat not burn cigarette was introduced in the erly 80s but it was not successful. Of course much has changed in terms of technology specifically battery technology. Now much more power can be stored in a much smaller space. Marlboro announced Heat Sticks in 2014 which is a heat not burn cigarette. That idea has become the iQOS.
Prior to recent history, if we fire up the time machine and direct the flux capacitor to take us back to 1988 we will find Kirk Gibson hitting an unbelievable home run. We will also find a heat not burn cigarette in the form of RJ Reynolds Premiere. The Premiere was not a success. In the literature of the time the Premiere was memorialized for apparently ‘tasting like s**t.‘
The Premiere made a mini comeback in the 90s in the form of the Eclipse. The Eclipse was also very short lived. Tobacco consumers did not enjoy the experience provided by heat not burn. There was more. The AMA and other groups at the time were vehemently opposed to heat not burn technology. They claimed that heat not burn would be a new way to hook people on nicotine. Sound familiar?
iQOS Tobacco Vaporizer Moving Forward
Later, a butane heated heat not burn electronic cigarette, Ploom, also made an effort to attract tobacco consumers but once again no go.
The iQOS tobacco vaporizer is enjoying a much more successful start. Of course better technology and vaporizer technology is much better now. In addition, the state of the material being vaporized, namely the tobacco, has been configured so that it will generate vapor. So the iQOS is actually off to a roaring start certainly compared to all previous heat not burn tobacco products.
While these products have failed in the past and have yet to really take off, Big Tobacco is working toward actually phasing out cigarettes. Yep, they said that. Philip Morris Chief Executive Andre Calantzopoulos said that they would like to work with local governments to eventually phase out traditional cigarettes altogether. You can expect that they will currently be determining if they should put their might behind heat not burn tobacco products.
How Will Consumers Respond To iQOS?
This is a big question. The early data from Japan indicates that there will be a demand. In the early stages of the release in Japan, heat not burn e-cigarettes could not be produced fast enough to meet demand. Perhaps people are ready for this particlar type of heat not burn e-vapor. A company spokesperson said that the goal was to get all of their tobacco consumers to switch from cigarettes to heated tobacco and vapor products. Well they say is a non-combustible alternative to be exact.
“Our goal for Japan is to switch every consumer we have to this (iQOS e-vapor device),” said Paul Riley president of Philip Morris in Japan. “For me, it’s like a no-brainer. The biggest thing is we know that smoking kills. If we’ve got an alternative to that, that’s a pretty good reason to switch.” Non combustible tobacco products are expected to be a $50 billion industry by 2030. That is a very conservative estimation at that.
Tobacco And Herbal Vaporizers Already Available
As time moves on, vaping e-liquids is becoming more and more popular in the United States. At the same time using dry herb vaporizers like the Pax 3 for smoking is also going strong. With each passing month, US consumers are finding non-combustible alternatives. If the iQOS waits too long, it may be difficult for them to gain a market share in the US. Of course Philip Morris does have the ability to deploy a massive distribution network at will. So there are are advantages and boundaries for the iQOS in the US.
Will the iQOS tobacco vaporizer work in the US? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Share this post on your Social Media and let’s find out if there is any interest. If you are an adult tobacco consumer, is this something that you would try?
How Will The FDA Respond?
The FDA has established strict guidelines regarding how tobacco products can market themselves. In the UK and elsewhere, Philip Morris has claimed that the iQOS is a definite harm reduction product. Overseas Philip Morris claims that the iQOS is healthier than cigarettes and that is something that they will not be able to do in the US without extensive studies that can back up such claims.
There is one study that is being used in reference to the iQOS electronic cigarette. The study was conducted in Poland and was designed to measured the toxic compounds found in the blood of people who smoked, used the iQOS vapor device and those who abstained. The results were encouraging. The levels of the most toxic contaminants in tobacco smoke were much lower in iQOS users than in those who smoked cigarettes. iQOS vapers did register slightly higher levels of toxins in the blood than those who did not smoke at all.
I can say that this study would never pass the FDA sniff test. Not that there was anything wrong with the methods or results, but the study was conducted over 5 days. A more extensive long-term study is underway now but it will take a lot to convince the FDA that iQOS will qualify as an actual harm reduction product.
There is no barrier to iQOS being marketed as a tobacco product with no associated claims made.
The Future For iQOS In The US Vs E-Cigs
Heating tobacco to the point of vaporization will draw out all of the active ingredients quite efficiently so users will get their nicotine. If the tobacco involved includes the dangerous additives that tobacco companies typically treat tobacco with an assortment of chemicals. If you are interested in trying a heat not burn vaporizer for smoking you can do so without having to wait for iQOS. With a dry herb vaporizer, you can use untreated tobacco or even organic untreated tobacco and sidestep the additives.
Perhaps iQOS will offer additive free tobacco. Based on how iQOS performed elsewhere in the world there could be a market even though it will be a bit late to the party. And late to the party because vaping e-liquid or e-juice is already going strong. Electronic cigarettes and e-juices offer options and variations of experience that vaporizing tobacco cannot match at this time.
Could iQOS overtake vaping? That is doubtable. With vaping the user chooses the flavor and strength. With actual tobacco, you draw the nicotine from actual tobacco and that’s the extent of the variation. The appeal of tobacco flavor remains for some but polling tells us that the majority of vapers do not vape tobacco flavored e-liquid. Fruit and sweet flavors lead the way. These are the flavors of mass appeal. There are fruit flavored alcoholic beverages, pastries, juices and the list goes on.
Will vaporized tobacco provide as enjoyable experience as e-vapor from e-liquid? That is frankly hard to imagine but ultimately we will find out. Regardless, it is promising to see companies move more aggressively toward non-combustible tobacco products.