There is a new tobacco kid on the block called IQOS (pronounced eye-kos) that has finally been allowed to come out and play as long as they follow the rules. The FDA has approved the first application to sell the device in the U.S., but has yet to make a decision on the second application to market it as less harmful than cigarettes. The IQOS isn’t a new liquid vaping device; instead it heats compressed tobacco “without combustion, fire, ash, or smoke.” The device first launched in 2014 and is sold in 40 markets around the world.
The device has three parts, a compressed tobacco insert with a filter called a “heatstick” or Heets, similar to a short cigarette, the pen-like device that heats the tobacco, and a charger. The ceramic and gold plate blade inside the device heats the tobacco sticks up to 350 Celsius (662 Fahrenheit) according to the manufacturer which is much less than the 700 – 900 degrees C during puffs (1292-1652 degrees F) and between 400-580 degrees C (752-1112 degrees F) between puffs of a cigarette. The heat inside the Heatstick is intense enough to melt a plastic piece used to cool the vapor before it reaches the user, according to independent researchers. The picture on the right shows the gold plated heating device inside of a heatstick. Currently, there are three flavors, Marlboro Heetstick, Smooth Menthol, and Fresh Menthol.
The products will be sold in the U.S. through Altria, and they aren’t cheap. Prices on eBay range between $96 and $189, not including the heatsticks. And if you want to dress up your IQOS, or maybe hide it, there are also skins available in a variety of styles like the NintendoDS skin cover to the right. A little research on the web, and you will find other kits such as the “Iron Man” limited edition version 2018 on sale for $170 (on the left). Did we mention you have to clean it after each stick or the stick might char?
Heatstick inserts are not cheap either. Depending on the website, one carton of Heets (10 individual packs of 20) goes for about $89 – $135. One Heet will give you as many puffs as a regular cigarette, about 6 minutes or 14 puffs before shutting off. Sales will start in Atlanta this summer with an IQOS store and mobile stores. The “Heetsticks, the Marlboro-branded tobacco sticks”, will be available in about 500 retail stores such as circle K, Murphy USA, Speedway and other sites.
Altria made headlines last year when they invested $12.8 billion to acquire a 35% stake in Juul, the fastest growing vaping device in the U.S. that now holds 78% of the e-cigarette market. By joining with Altria, Juul will get prime shelf space in retail stores, but Altria had to give up their MarkTen and Green Smoke e-cigarette products and Verve oral nicotine products in order to buy into Juul. Now with this heat-not-burn product, they hope to give smokers “healthier” options.
Philip Morris claims the IQOS (I quit ordinary smoking) system is a healthier option for smokers, but the FDA hasn’t approved the application to market it as less harmful. Researchers claim there is a need for further safety testing. What with the cost of the product, the need for cleaning the device after each use, and additional charging to use it after each heatstick, it is a lot of work for smokers. Still, the IQOS has 10% of the market in Japan. We will wait and see.
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