Debunking the Myths – Five Things to Know About Heated Tobacco

Debunking the Myths – Five Things to Know About Heated Tobacco
IQOS device

Smoking is bad, everyone knows this and while quitting is the best option, many won’t which is why in recent years research and development have resulted in the availability of less harmful alternatives for people who would otherwise continue smoking. Some of these innovations include snus, e-cigarettes and more recently, heated tobacco products (HTPs).

Heated Tobacco
Heated Tobacco


“The harmful effects of smoking cigarettes are well known, but there is limited awareness around what causes this harm,” explains Rishaad Hajee, Head of Corporate Communications at Philip Morris South Africa. “There are five fundamental things to know about heated tobacco products like IQOS, and why switching to scientifically substantiated alternatives is better than continuing to smoke.”

Heats tobacco instead of burning it

When a cigarette is lit, the tobacco burns at temperatures of around 600°C and when a smoker takes a puff, the temperature rises above 800°C at the burning tip. The burning of tobacco generates smoke.

“The first thing to note is that the IQOS HeatControl™ Technology heats tobacco to a lower temperature (less than 350°C), ensuring that there is no burning and as a result, IQOS does not produce smoke,” says Hajee. “The absence of burning is the foundational difference between cigarettes and IQOS.”

Reduced levels of harmful chemicals

He explains that cigarette smoke contains over 6,000 chemicals, around 100 of which have been linked to smoking-related diseases by public health authorities.

“Over a decade ago we asked our scientists and engineers the question, ‘If burning tobacco creates so many harmful chemicals, what can be done to reduce the levels of these toxicants?’ The answer was to remove the burning process, and by doing so IQOS produces 95% lower levels of harmful chemicals compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette,” he adds. “IQOS is not risk-free and this doesn’t necessarily equate to a 95% reduction in risk. It also contains nicotine which is addictive and not risk-free.”

Hajee reiterates that the best option for smokers is to quit nicotine and tobacco altogether.

What about nicotine?

“There’s misunderstanding surrounding nicotine. Many people wrongly believe it’s the primary cause of smoke related diseases, but science tells us this is not correct. Nicotine is addictive and not risk-free, but it’s not the primary cause of smoking related diseases,” he says. “Instead, it is the harmful chemicals in the smoke generated by burning tobacco which are then inhaled by smokers that are the main cause of smoking-related diseases.”

“Heated tobacco products deliver nicotine because it occurs naturally in tobacco. Most vapes and e-cigarettes also contain nicotine,” he adds. “Nicotine is one of the reasons people smoke, along with taste and ritual, but for adult smokers to fully switch from cigarettes to better alternatives, these products generally need to contain nicotine.”

Not a cigarette, not an e-cigarette

According to Hajee, cigarettes and e-cigarettes or vapes have been available in South Africa for a long time while heated tobacco has only been around in South Africa since 2017 resulting in the category being less understood.

“IQOS is different from a cigarette – cigarettes burn tobacco and generate smoke while IQOS heats tobacco without burning and does not generate smoke. IQOS is also not an e-cigarette which heats a liquid, while IQOS heats tobacco,” he adds. “It’s an alternative for adult smokers considering less harmful smoke free products who prefer the taste of real tobacco.”

PMI is leading the heated tobacco products category and as of March 31, 2021, PMI’s smoke-free products are available for sale in 66 markets in key cities and nationwide. PMI estimates that approximately 14-million adults around the world have already switched to IQOS and stopped smoking cigarettes.

Smoke, ash, tar

“Smoke and ash are produced in the process of burning tobacco. IQOS doesn’t burn tobacco, so it doesn’t produce smoke and ash,” he says. “For the same reason, it also doesn’t produce tar.”

Hajee explains that tar is the residue from smoke after a cigarette is burnt and is one of the most harmful elements of cigarette smoke. “IQOS does not produce tar because it heats tobacco instead of burning it. It generates an aerosol residue that is fundamentally different from tar and consists of significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals,” he adds.

“The totality of evidence available for IQOS in comparison with continued smoking shows that, while IQOS use is not risk-free, switching completely to IQOS is less harmful than continuing to smoke cigarettes,” he says. “Smoke-free products such as heated tobacco products, e-cigarettes and other innovations, when scientifically substantiated and regulated, have the potential to accelerate the decline in smoking rates and it is our ambition to replace cigarettes with these products as soon and as fast as possible.”

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