Heating Tobacco instead of burning it: what is the difference?
Posted on 2021 Feb,26

Many people see non-combusted cigarettes as a safe alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. So how do the two practices differ? And how are they the same?


You don’t have to look very far to see that the use of alternative cigarettes is on the rise. Among the many choices available across markets, one particular brand has managed to distinguish itself from the manifold offerings, namely, Philip Morris' IQOS

Philip Morris International (PMI) has made clear its ongoing commitment to put science at the forefront, as the company continues on its quest to replace cigarettes with smoke-free alternatives as quickly as possible.

IQOS’ characteristics

PMI’s heat-not-burn product IQOS is currently available in more than 64 countries.

This attempt to disrupt the tobacco markets and make heated tobacco products legally regulated is part of the company’s latest mission to “change society and deliver a better, smoke-free future”.

Science and research proves these products are a less harmful way than continued smoking.

This device, which has obtained FDA authorization in April 2019, consists of an electronic heating, which delivers nicotine with 95% lower levels of harmful chemicals. It is important to note that it does not necessarily equal a 95% reduction in risk, as IQOS is not risk-free.

The user places the stick into the electronic heating device, which pierces the stick with a glass-covered ceramic blade that heats the tobacco, instead of burning it, with no smoke, no ash and less lingering smell.

But what are these “heat not burn” products, and are they actually a better choice for smokers than cigarettes?

PMI has always asserted that the best choice for smokers is to quit tobacco and nicotine containing products entirely. The company’s goal, however, is to be able to offer adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking scientifically substantiated less harmful alternatives.

Therefore, heat-not-burn products are different from conventional cigarettes in their mechanism, which heats the tobacco to considerably lower temperatures.

In heat-not-burn devices, the tobacco is heated to a precisely controlled temperature range below 350, compared to traditional cigarettes that combust and burn at up to 900.

Innovative tobacco and nicotine products that are backed by solid science can play a key role in reducing the harm caused by smoking cigarettes for the benefit of public health and society at large.

Although similar in that they’re both electronic devices, heat-not-burn products are also different from e-cigarettes or vaping devices. These generally use chemical liquids, and don’t necessarily contain nicotine.


Are these “heat-not-burn” products less harmful than regular cigarettes?

The rationale behind heat-not-burn products is they allow smokers to get the same nicotine experience and to feel like smoking a cigarette without inhaling the smoke generated by burning the tobacco and without the harmful exposure to other chemicals.

Heat-not-burn products do release fewer toxins and at lower concentrations than normal cigarettes because there’s no burning, or combustion, which would otherwise release toxins.

Heated tobacco products may help reduce the risk of tobacco-related harms for adult smokers who switch completely from cigarettes, but all tobacco products can lead to nicotine addiction.

However, one can easily reckon there is no safe tobacco product. Even leading tobacco company Philip Morris acknowledges on its website that "smoking is not a healthy choice, and anyone who smokes should quit smoking and nicotine altogether. But the fact is that not every smoker quits."

Cigarettes and other ways of taking in nicotine have been around for centuries, but recent technological advancements like heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes mean adults who want to continue using nicotine have better options available to them than continued smoking. Studies so far have confirmed that switching to heated tobacco products exposes users to lower levels of harmful chemicals.

For someone who is using heat not burn products, like IQOS, as an alternative to smoking is, without a doubt, a better choice.


This article is brought to you by Philip Morris Lebanon.