Alternatives to Smoking Cigarettes.

Technology & Research 08/10/2020

Adult smokers today have the option of exploring different experiences than smoking cigarettes. If you are an adult smoker who would otherwise continue to smoke or use other nicotine products, curious about alternatives to smoking, and looking to make a switch to a different sort of product, here’s the information for you.

What are the different options for smoking alternatives?

There are two main groups of smoking alternatives: heated tobacco, or “heat-not-burn” products, and e-cigarettes.

Heated Tobacco Products as a Smoking Alternative

Heated tobacco, or “heat-not-burn” devices are cigarette smoke-free alternatives. Heated tobacco devices utilize real tobacco that is specially processed, and formed into sticks. The tobacco sticks are then inserted into the device, where innovative technologies heat the tobacco to specific temperatures, but never high enough to cause the tobacco to burn. As with e-cigarettes, there is also no cigarette smoke produced with heated tobacco. Different Heat-not-burn products utilize different heating techniques. For instance, some use an external heating source, meaning the tobacco stick is heated all the way around, from the outside. IQOS uses a ceramic heating blade with gold and platinum, which heats the tobacco stick from the inside. 


HEETS tobacco sticks as an Alternative to traditional Cigarettes & Tobacco

HEETS tobacco stick is inserted directly onto the blade, and the blade heats the tobacco directly from the core. This allows the tobacco to be heated first, before the paper, which delivers a consistent taste & experience. You can choose between 8 different flavors to have a real tobacco alternative. For a refreshing and cooling taste, try HEETS Turquoise Selection, which promises a fine and sensual tobacco experience. With HEETS Russet Selection you choose a robust, full-bodied tobacco pleasure, while HEETS Bronze Selection is rich and warm with notes of cocoa and dried fruits. The HEETS Sienna Selection offers a balanced, well-rounded taste along with a delightfully woody note and light tea aromas. While the HEETS Teak Selection with fine nut aromas is a rounded and creamy tobacco variety, the HEETS Yellow Selection offers a mild and zesty tobacco blend. The HEETS Amber Selection is balanced and roasted with a fine wood note and light nutty aromas. The last of our eight varieties is the HEETS Yellow Green Selection, which offers a sophisticated, mature tobacco blend with herbal and intense citrus aroma notes.​ 

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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 average1. 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.)​

¹ 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.

Why replace smoking cigarettes?

IQOS can be a replacement for smoking cigarettes. Smokers who aren’t going to quit can make a better choice and choose an alternative to cigarettes. Our studies demonstrate that completely switching to IQOS leads to improvements in a series of risk markers associated with diseases caused by smoking. Study participants who had switched to IQOS additionally reported that IQOS delivers similar levels of satisfaction as a conventional cigarette. For us, IQOS has with our heat-not-burn technology the potential to be a real alternative for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. Based on all of the scientific findings, we are confident that switching to IQOS is less harmful than continuing to smoke conventional cigarettes.

E-Cigarettes are an Alternative to Smoking

E-cigarettes are another kind of smoking alternative, but it does not utilize real tobacco. They are electronic products that heat and vaporize e-liquids instead. Most of these cigarettes without tobacco utilize a system called “wick & coil”, where the wick draws the e-liquid, which contains flavors and nicotine, onto a coil element to heat it and create a vapor. The vapor is drawn from the device through a mouthpiece. There is no smoke.

E-cigarettes are also sometimes called “vapes” or “vaping systems”. Some of these have an open tank system that is fully customizable. Other e-cigarettes have closed vaping systems, where they are either single-use, rechargeable, or contain cartridges.

How are smoke-free alternatives different than smoking cigarettes?

The main difference between alternatives like e-cigarettes or heated tobacco and smoking cigarettes lies in exactly what makes the alternatives “cigarette smoke-free”: it is due to a lack of combustion – or burning of the tobacco.

Cigarettes must be lit to be smoked, and lighting a cigarette causes combustion. The lit end of cigarettes reaches high temperatures, causing the tobacco to burn, and it is known that the majority of harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke comes from this combustion. 

On the other hand, smoke-free alternatives like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco eliminate combustion all together. With e-cigarettes, there is no tobacco involved, and therefore, no burning. With heated tobacco products, the tobacco sticks used in these devices are heated to specific temperatures without burning it. For example, IQOS heats tobacco to a significantly lower temperature using HeatControl™ Technology. As a result, no cigarette smoke is produced, only a tobacco vapor. With the burning removed, IQOS emits 95% less harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes1. However, it does not necessarily equal a 95% reudction in risk. IQOS is not risk free. 

The elimination of combustion in smoke-free alternatives also come with other benefits – IQOS produces no ash. Without a lit end, IQOS has no risk of burning others around you, clothes, or furniture. Specifically, with IQOS, adult smokers are still able to experience real tobacco, and get real tobacco taste, just with all the added benefits of an cigarette smoke-free alternative. Important information: IQOS is not risk-free.

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¹ ”95% less” represents the average reductions in levels of a range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette (3R4F). See Important Information on

Recommended reading

Why IQOS heated tobacco is an alternative for adult smokers.

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How heated tobacco devices work.

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Where can you find IQOS tobacco heaters?

Learn more about where tobacco heaters and HEETS tobacco sticks are available.

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