These days, we’re always looking for healthier alternatives to our food and activities. One hotly debated subject is smoking. With so many documented risks to smoking, cigarette smokers have been very open to trying new methods of nicotine consumption. Vaping has proven itself to be a safer option for nicotine delivery, but some feel it’s too much of a departure from the cigarettes they’re used to.
The Tobacco Middle Ground
Recently, Philip Morris has put forth a new alternative to the traditional, combustible cigarette – the IQOS, a “heat-not-burn” device. William Shadel, associate director of the Population Health Program at Rand Corp., describes it as an “in the middle” product. The concept behind the IQOS is simple: instead of burning tobacco like a traditional cigarette, it only heats tobacco sticks to the point of producing an aerosol (662 degrees Fahrenheit) via a heating blade. To put this in perspective, the burning tip of a traditional cigarette typically ranges from a resting 752 degrees Fahrenheit to 1652 degrees Fahrenheit during puffs.
Philip Morris claims that their tobacco sticks are comprised of processed tobacco, water, glycerine, cellulose fibers and other components. They assert that because there’s no combustion, their product releases significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it reduces the risk of disease compared to combustible cigarettes, since the problem chemicals are still present. The claim of reduced risk, among others, is currently being deliberated by the FDA before the public release of the IQOS in the US. It is worth noting that most studies done on the IQOS have been conducted by the Philip Morris company itself.
HNBs vs Vaporizers
Even though heat-not-burn devices reduce the exposure to dangerous chemicals, it does not eliminate it. One reason is that the heat passing through the heat stick is intense enough to melt the plastic polymer film filter attached for the purpose of cooling the aerosol. Users will still be exposed to byproducts of the direct application of heat to the tobacco sticks. In contrast, vaporizers simply deliver the contents of e-juice in a non-liquid form.
E-juice is typically comprised of vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), water, food-grade flavoring and either nicotine or CBD oil. All of these are compounds approved by the FDA for human consumption. Vaporizers work by heating the e-liquid that is wicked up through the heating coils, turning it into vapor. The technology has seen huge changes in just the last few years. Pun intended: there’s latterly “flavor of the month” for eJuice with devices like the squonk mod that have built in squeeze bottles..
process of vaporization simply converts a liquid to a gaseous state, it does not create new compounds, making the resulting vapor more pure.
Another difference is that the IQOS lasts only about 6 minutes before needing to be recharged. This could cause users to take deeper and more rapid puffs, or simply pose a minor inconvenience. Vaporizers, meanwhile, are available in such variety that there’s a mod, pod, or pen out there to suit any user’s lifestyle or preferences.
Vaping has been estimated to be 95% less harmful than smoking, as published in Public Health England in 2015. Meanwhile the claim that an exposure reduction to harmful chemicals by heat-not-burn tobacco products translates to a reduction in health risk (when compared to traditional cigarettes) has yet to be substantiated.
It’s still too early to be able to tell how these heat-not-burn products will do once released in the US. Could they serve as the middle ground many smokers have been waiting for, or will the differences be too insignificant to garner large scale adoption? There is always a degree of risk involved with products that introduce foreign substances to our lungs, so it’s best to make lifestyle decisions only after all the data has been produced.
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