First released in 2014, Philip Morris International’s “heat-not-burn” IQOS—”I quit original smoking”—smokeless cigarette device has, according to studies, been found to be harmful to health.
Approved for Sale in the U.S.
Philip Morris International, best known for manufacturing Marlboro cigarettes, scored a huge win in April of 2019 when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) OK’d the IQOS for sale in the United States despite these studies and the widespread coverage of it being harmful to health.
The device is also sold in over 40 other countries including the UK and Japan, where the IQOS is very popular.
What is the IQOS?
The IQOS is a “heat-not-burn” smokeless tobacco product that has been described by some as the ‘middleman’ between traditional cigarettes and e-cigs and other vaping products. It is one of numerous heat-not-burn (HNB) devices that are available on today’s market.
Using a disposable tobacco stick that is heated to give off an aerosol (but no smoke due to the lack of combustion—hence the name), IQOS devices give a similar look, feel, and taste to regular smoking. This is achieved with the use of processed tobacco, alongside other ingredients and components, in the disposable tobacco sticks.
IQOS devices are used by placing the tobacco stick into a holder which then heats up the tobacco using an electronic heating element. The tobacco in the stick is then heated up to 350 degrees Celsius which creates an aerosol without burning anything.
The lack of combustion means that lower levels of harmful chemicals typically found in tobacco smoke are produced, making the IQOS a ‘better’ alternative to regular cigarettes.
Research published in the Tobacco Control industry journal found that many users of the IQOS device speed up their “puff rate” to inhale more nicotine. This happens because the IQOS heat sticks can be used for only six minutes before the devices shut off and need recharging.
Perhaps the most damning conclusion of the study, however, is that the device “… is not strictly a ‘heat-not-burn’ tobacco product,” as they put it.
This is because the tobacco stick in the device was found to have a tendency to char due to pyrolysis—where a material decomposes due to heat in the absence of oxygen—and release harmful by-products. This charring phenomenon was more apparent in devices that were not cleaned between the use of each tobacco stick.
The device also contains a plastic polymer film that is designed to cool the vapour, but this was found to melt if the device got hot enough.
Is the IQOS Similar to a Vaping Device?
No—the IQOS and vaping devices such as e-cigs are materially different.
The primary difference between the two is that vaping devices do not use tobacco whereas the IQOS does; the IQOS is a tobacco product. This means that there are visible signs of tar when an IQOS product is used, slight yellowing of the tip. Of course, it is substantially less than that seen with a traditional cigarette.
The IQOS is less versatile than vaping products, too. There is no variation in product hardware, no choice of flavours, no option to reduce nicotine levels, and no way to control the intensity of your IQOS usage by tinkering with airflow and temperature controls.
Finally, the IQOS has potentially harmful effects on health due to the presence of tobacco and the potential for there to be some combustion taking place. Vaping, on the other hand, does not pose any risk of combustion and there is no tobacco present, period.
Harmful, But Less Harmful Than Cigarettes
The conclusion that can be drawn from the study and widespread coverage of the IQOS device is that whilst it may be less harmful than cigarettes, it is still a harmful device by its very nature.
It is clear that the IQOS can only be considered suitable for smokers who are trying to quit. On moving from traditional cigarettes to the IQOS device, ex-smokers may notice an improvement in their breathing and fewer bouts of coughing after tar from their cigarette smoking leaves their body.
Still, it may be much more worthwhile for smokers who are looking to quit to use e-cigs and vaping devices instead.
E-cigs, whilst not perfect, are far less harmful so far as the findings of the study go, and Public Health England’s latest e-cigarette evidence review has found vaping e-cigs to be “likely 95% less harmful” than smoking conventional cigarettes.
If you are trying to quit smoking, we recommend using a good e-cig or other vaping product over the IQOS any day of the week.
Want to See What’s Available?
If you are new to vaping and want to see what sort of products are available, check out Vaper Empire’s online vaping supply store. They have an entire range of products that include everything from newbie-friendly starter packs to advanced devices, each of which can be used alongside an entire library of e-liquids with different flavours and nicotine strengths. Also, in case you’re wondering, they most definitely do ship to customers in Australia.