The Ascendance of Heated Tobacco - An Alternative to Cigarettes and Vaping

With many adult smokers looking for less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, search interest in one relatively new smoke-free product to the market - heated tobacco - has seen significant growth over the last few years.

Heated Tobacco Search Interest Data Study

We undertook a data study to find out the potential reasons for these developments in searcher behaviour, and to discover why adult smokers might be looking for information on heated tobacco products, and other smoke-free alternatives, such as vapes.

So what else does the study reveal, and what can the data tell us about the link the huge amount of growth in the smoke-free alternatives category? Here’s what else our data uncovered.

Searches for Information Around Ways to Quit Smoking Cigarettes Are Up

Search trends on Smoke-Free Alternatives

While searchers explore alternative products to cigarettes, we can also see where search highlights a developing interest in smoke-free products besides vapes.

With such high interest, could this signify a gap in the market for other smoke-free alternatives?

  • ‘Alternative to vaping’ search volumes have reached their highest to date, increasing 4x since 2018.

With so much search interest focused on the smoke-free category as a whole, what specifically, are adult smokers interested to learn about? When diving into the data, we have found that search interest in one particular product is gaining traction, and its growth is unparalleled.

  • Searches for ‘heated tobacco’ specifically have risen by 100% - in just four years.

  • At an increase of 60% in the last 12 months, the number of searchers wanting to know ‘what is heated tobacco’ is way ahead of other smoke-free categories.

How Significant is the Growth of Heated Tobacco?

When we look at the data in more detail, our research reveals that the growth for this category is mounting - and more specifically, it’s outstripping searches for e-cigarettes.

  • The rate of growth for heated tobacco is 4 times faster than e-cigarettes - 13% vs 2.7%.

  • Search volumes for this category are peaking - ‘heated tobacco’ searches now total 3,600.

What is Driving Search Interest in Heated Tobacco?

Heated Tobacco is clearly an emerging, yet popular, smoke free alternative to cigarettes. However, there is confusion around terminology. As a product still in its relative infancy, there are examples of uncertainty among searches - seen in some of the diverse terms emerging for this product.

We’ve looked at heated tobacco as a specific term, but what other distinctive search terms are appearing?

Heated Tobacco-Related Search Terms

Search Term Search volume
Hot Tobacco 880
Heat not burn 140
Heated cigarettes 110
Heated tobacco sticks 70
Heat stick 50

Table 3: SEMrush Search Volume. Collected September 2022

As searchers find new ways to explore heated tobacco products, our data tells us a story - that there is a demand for viable, long-term solutions to smoking, and that there is genuine interest in smoke-free alternatives besides simply vapes and vaping.

’Heated Tobacco vs. Vaping’  Search Skyrockets in Just 1 Year

It’s clear searchers are increasingly looking to heated tobacco as a potential alternative to continued smoking cigarettes - but do adult smokers apply their learnings of the category and compare them with other smoke-free alternatives? The data suggests they do. One figure in particular shows how adult users are looking for heated tobacco information, and exploring the differences to an established smoke-free alternative: vaping.

When we examine available data from last year and compare it with this year, the contrast between the figures is striking.

  • Search for ‘heated tobacco vs vaping’  has leapt from 0 searches in 2021 to an average of 140 searches per month in 2022.

What’s more, searchers are pinpointing specific topics, and looking for information that ultimately influences future purchase research. The biggest themes experiencing the most search growth are around where to buy’ and ‘flavours’.

As search terms among adult users continue to evolve according to a greater interest in the development of smoke-free products, we expect to see consistent search growth for the smoke-free category. What’s more, we will likely see further changes in how searchers explore these products as the demand for information grows.


IQOS is not risk-free and provides nicotine, which is addictive. The best decision any adult smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether. IQOS are not alternatives to quitting and are not designed as cessation aids.


All data cited reflects search volumes taken from Google Trends and SEMrush. When ‘interest’ is mentioned, we are referring to ‘search interest’, the number or volume of searches for a particular term at a particular time period. Data reflects search trends in the UK. Search volumes and Google Trends data were collected across August - November 2022.

Google Trends and SEMrush are publicly available and do not have restrictions on commercial use.


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