IQOS vs E-Cigarettes: What’s the difference?

Alternatives for Smokers 21/08/2020

IQOS is not an e-cigarette, it is a heated tobacco device. While both e-cigs and IQOS are smoking alternatives, they are different.

IQOS heated tobacco devices vs. E-cigarettes – What is the difference?

IQOS heated tobacco devices and e-cigarettes are both smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes for adults who would otherwise continue to smoke or use other nicotine products. Both are electronic devices, and do not generate cigarette smoke smell. But there is one feature that distinguishes IQOS tobacco heating system from e-cigarettes: Contrary to vaporizing an e-liquid, IQOS heats real tobacco, producing tobacco vapor. IQOS heated tobacco devices uses HEETS tobacco sticks that have real tobacco which is carefully selected, finely ground and compressed to ensure consistency in the taste delivery. Because heated tobacco devices heat tobacco instead of burning it, they are an alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes. 

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are electronic hand-held devices that are smoke-free alternative to cigarettes. In general, they are powered by a battery and heat e-liquids in order to generate an aerosol or what some users call vapor. The e-liquids may have various flavors and may contain nicotine.

How do E-Cigarettes work?

There are many types of e-cigarettes. They differ in size, power, customization options, and even their ability to be reusable or disposable. However, most of them work on the same principle and with similar components.

E-Cigarettes: The principle

E-cigarettes heat and vaporize e-liquids. They achieve this by drawing the liquid from a tank and putting it in contact with a battery powered heating element. When the liquid is evaporated it is drawn from the device through a mouthpiece. 

E-Cigarettes: The components

The battery - The energy source for the whole device. In most cases it is rechargeable and provides power to the heating element and electronic components.
The tank - The container that is used to store the liquid until it is taken to the heating element or chamber. Some e-cigarettes use capsules or pods that are disposable.
The e-liquid - The mixture that is vaporized inside the e-cigarette. While there are many variants of the liquids, they usually contain propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, flavorings and various additives.
The heater - The set of components that draw the liquid toward the heating element and heat to vaporize. Most e-cigarettes use a “wick and coil” system. The wick naturally soaks the liquid and puts it in contact with the metal coil which is the part that heats.
The sensors and electric components - Control the heating and operation of the device. They range from simple push to activate buttons, LEDs, battery Indicators or to advanced flow sensors.
The mouthpiece - The chamber or channel where the vaporized liquid drawn from the device.

What is IQOS?

IQOS is a heated tobacco device developed by Philip Morris International that uses an innovative tobacco heating system called HeatControl™ Technology and offers an alternative to smoking. This type of tobacco heating technology is often called "heat-not-burn" , because it heats tobacco instead of burning it – which is what happens with cigarettes.

Tobacco sticks, called HEETS, are inserted onto a ceramic blade in the IQOS device, which heats the tobacco from the inside. The tobacco does not burn, as it does when smoking cigarettes, but heats the tobacco to a significantly lower temperature. While both e-cigarettes and IQOS are alternatives to conventional smoking, with IQOS, a legal-aged user gets a tobacco flavour and experience, with no fire, no ash and no cigarette smoke smell. While IQOS heated tobacco is not risk free, it emits on average 95% lower levels of harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes, and allows IQOS adult users to experience tobacco with less chance to bother people around them. After an IQOS adult user is done with their HEETS, they simply remove it from the holder and discard it. 

Heated tobacco vs. E-Cigarettes:

So, if you are an adult who would otherwise continue to smoke or use other nicotine products looking for an alternative to smoking cigarettes, how do you choose between IQOS heated tobacco vs. e-cigarettes? While they are both electronic alternatives to smoking, the key differentiator between the two is this: IQOS’s tobacco heating system heats processed tobacco, while e-cigarettes vaporize an e-liquid. Because of this difference, IQOS heated tobacco allows for the taste delivery and experience and provides cigarette-like satisfaction¹ that is familiar for adult smokers. 

Discover IQOS

¹ Average reductions in levels of a range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette (3R4F). It does not necessarily equal a 95% reduction in risk.

Currently, there are several options of IQOS devices to choose from – such as, IQOS 3 DUOIQOS 3 MultiIQOS 2.4 Plus.
Some IQOS heated tobacco devices have a separate holder and charger, while others have those components integrated as an all-in-one device. These different options allow adult users to select IQOS heated tobacco device that best suits their lifestyle.

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2 Average reduction in the concentration of individual harmful substances (9 of the so-called "priority toxicants" identified by the WHO) from IQOS compared to the smoke from a reference cigarette (3R4F); evaluation using the intense Smoking Regime from Health Canada without accounting for nicotine.

Is IQOS less harmful?

Studies done both by us and by independent third parties demonstrate how, compared to cigarettes, IQOS releases with the heat-not-burn technology around 95% lower levels of harmful chemicals on average.³ But do lower levels of chemicals also mean, that IQOS is less harmful? To figure this out, we’ve measured a series of those harmful chemicals in a clinical study involving hundreds of smokers and IQOS users. After switching to the IQOS tobacco heating system, the body showed fewer signs of contact with harmful chemicals – almost in the same manner as smokers who had quit smoking normal cigarettes. (We’d like to note here how quitting is the best option, and that IQOS is not an alternative to quitting.)

³ Average reduction in the levels of a range of harmful chemicals from IQOS (9 so-called “priority toxicants” identified by the WHO) compared to the smoke from a reference cigarette (3R4F). Based on Health Canada's Intense Smoking Regime without nicotine.

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