It’s no secret that vaping has revolutionized nicotine consumption for millions of people around the world. There remain many more smokers than vapers, though, and the world’s tobacco companies have not been willing to stand idly by and watch their core products become irrelevant. For years, the tobacco companies have attempted to develop smokeless cigarettes. Long-forgotten brands like Premier, Accord, Eclipse and Favor represent some of the many failed attempts to develop cigarettes that heated tobacco without burning it – and tasted good enough to satisfy smokers. Today, though, the smokeless cigarette has a new lease on life – and we have the vaping industry to thank for that.
So, will the heat-not-burn cigarette coexist peacefully alongside the vaping industry, or is the smokeless cigarette going to lure vapers back to tobacco? In this article, we’re going to learn what the future holds – but first, let’s examine how we got to this point.
A Recent History of Smokeless Cigarettes
Some people say that early smokeless cigarette attempts such as Premier and Eclipse failed because they didn’t taste right. Others say that the tobacco companies never really wanted those products to succeed. Whether that’s true or not, there’s no way that the tobacco industry can ignore the success of the vaping industry any longer. Virtually every major tobacco company has now developed an e-cigarette or purchased an existing e-cigarette brand to avoid becoming irrelevant in a changing market. The JUUL, Vuse and Blu brands – among others – are all owned or partially owned by tobacco companies. There are some other brands, though, that have fallen by the wayside.
Until recently, Philip Morris – the maker of the Marlboro cigarette – has always been an also-ran in the vaping industry. Philip Morris bought the existing e-cigarette brand Green Smoke in early 2014. In late 2014, the company introduced MarkTen, an e-cigarette brand developed in house. By mid-2015, though, the combined market share of those two brands was just 6.1 percent. The R.J. Reynolds Vuse, meanwhile, was the leading mainstream e-cigarette with a market share of 35 percent.
By 2018, the JUUL e-cigarette had emerged and captured a share of the mainstream American e-cigarette market that exceeded 70 percent. It was obvious that the MarkTen and Green Smoke brands, by then woefully out of date, were never going to make a dent in JUUL’s popularity. Philip Morris shuttered both brands and bought a 35-percent stake in JUUL. In the intervening years, though, Philip Morris had also developed another product: the iQOS smokeless tobacco cigarette.
What Is the iQOS Heat-not-Burn Cigarette?
The iQOS system is a hybrid smoking system that combines features of both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The iQOS is a battery-powered heating system into which the user inserts a specially designed cigarette. The cigarette contains a plug of tobacco soaked in vegetable glycerin – one of the key ingredients in most e-liquids. When the user inserts the cigarette into the iQOS heating unit, a heating element pokes through the tobacco plug. The user turns the heating unit on, and the element heats the tobacco until the nicotine and other active compounds vaporize. The glycerin also vaporizes, creating a cloud that looks and feels much like smoke. The tobacco, however, does not burn.
The iQOS is, in a sense, much like an e-cigarette in that the glycerin carries the nicotine and looks like smoke. The difference is that the flavors come from tobacco rather than e-liquid.
Philip Morris launched the iQOS in 2014. At the time of writing, it is available in about 20 nations, including Canada.
What Is the Status of the iQOS in Canada?
The iQOS is available in Canada, but adoption so far has been slow. For the time being, it seems unlikely that the device will ever challenge the success of the vaping industry. In November 2018, Health Canada ordered a Toronto iQOS store to remove its front-facing signage. The order stemmed from the fact that Health Canada deemed the iQOS a tobacco product rather than a vaping product. Without the ability to advertise, it seems unlikely that the iQOS will ever gain much traction here except potentially among smokers who don’t want to switch to e-liquid vaping.
What Is the Status of the iQOS in the United States?
The iQOS is not available in the United States. In the US, it is illegal to release a new tobacco product without receiving pre-market approval from the US Food & Drug Administration. To receive approval, the maker must demonstrate that the product presents a net benefit to public health. In early 2018, an FDA advisory panel informed Philip Morris that the company had not demonstrated that the iQOS was safer than tobacco cigarettes. Philip Morris vowed that the iQOS would one day receive FDA approval.
Will Heat-Not Burn Cigarettes Make Vaping Obsolete?
As of yet, the iQOS and other heat-not-burn cigarettes have yet to surpass the vaping industry in any market where the two product categories are allowed to compete on equal terms. Philip Morris chose Japan as the first iQOS test market with good reason; e-cigarettes with nicotine are illegal there. The iQOS had a strong start, capturing a 15.5 percent share of the total tobacco market. By late 2018, though, news agencies were beginning to report that adoption of the iQOS among Japanese smokers had stalled. With more than 5 million Japanese users, iQOS isn’t going away there any time soon. At the moment, though, the iQOS does not present a threat to put traditional cigarette makers out of business.
In the United States, the vaping industry has fared much better against combustible cigarettes. About 10.8 million American adults vape, compared to 38 million who smoke. Current statistics for e-cigarette and iQOS use are not available for Canada. In Canada, the inability to advertise heat-not-burn tobacco products has slowed their adoption compared to vaping products. In the United States, it’s likely that the iQOS would face a similar slow adoption rate if it ever receives FDA approval. At present, there is no evidence that heat-not-burn cigarettes are safer than – or even as safe as – e-cigarettes. The products may serve an important purpose among smokers who absolutely refuse to switch to a vapor-based product unless that product truly tastes like tobacco. They are unlikely, however, to convert many people who already vape.
Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. A professional freelance writer and SEO consultant with more than a decade of experience, Jason works with vaping companies around the world to increase their targeted web traffic and improve their revenue
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