Tobacco consumption has changed throughout time. People have puffed dried tobacco leaves in pipes, chewed the leaves, snorted or snuffed it up their noses. Prior to 1900 cigarette smoking was an uncommon form of tobacco use due to the high cost of the hand-rolled cigarettes. But the cigarette rolling machine and the use of advertising changed all that and made the cigarette king of tobacco use for over a century. In 2003, the first electronic cigarette was created by a Chinese pharmacist and smoker who developed the device after his father died from lung cancer. It hit the world market the next year and use has taken off, especially among youth. Soon there will be a new kid on the block that combines miniature sticks of tobacco with electronic cigarette technology.
The product called iQOS (pronounced eye-cos) has been a 10 year, $2 billion research and development project by Philip Morris and was originally launched in 2014 to be a “viable alternative to smoking.” Not only do smokers have the familiar “hand-to-mouth gesture” of smoking and a cigarette-like tip to inhale from, they also receive something missing with current electronic cigarettes…real tobacco flavor. It is those smokers who desire this real flavor, but in a safer delivery system, that Philip Morris is hoping to gain as customers. Test markets included Japan and Italy and “a handful of other countries as well.”
Electronic cigarettes and the iQOS system both use a battery and heating system, but that is where the similarities end. While an e-cigarette or vapor device heats up liquid flavoring which may or may not contain nicotine, the iQOS system heats a miniature stick of tobacco called a Marlboro HeatStick in its tube. The original iQOS heated the tobacco to 900 degrees, releasing more toxins, while the newer device heat up to 350 degrees “to produce vapor but not secondhand smoke. ” According to iQOS research, the lower temperature reduces the toxins “by about 95%.” It provides the user with “a mouthful of tobacco-flavored vapor, but no smoke and tar.”
The product comes with a charger, charging cables, and the smoking device. The heatsticks are sold separately. The major drawback to the device is that it needs to be charged before using, and cleaned afterwards with a device included in the set. A spokesman of rival Imperial Tobacco said the device “smells like an ashtray” after use.
The company hopes to market the device here in the U.S. by early 2018. It will be interesting to see how this develops over time, especially with the Marlboro name attached to the device, and whether it will be as popular as electronic cigarettes.