A peek at the evolution of heated tobacco

As people are becoming increasingly aware of their personal health and well-being, more and more smokers seek to switch to less harmful sources of nicotine from smoking traditional cigarettes.

This results in the decline of conventional cigarette smoking, and the emergence of other forms of nicotine delivery, such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, oral nicotine products, and so on.

Tobacco industry players have been doing everything possible to develop innovative products as adequate substitutes for cigarettes in the delivery of nicotine, with an aim to provide smokers with safer and healthier ways of smoking.

For example, the leading player in the tobacco industry, Philip Morris International Inc.,(PMI), has recently launched the latest heat-not-burn tobacco heating system, BONDS by IQOS, featuring resistive external heating, with no blade.

When referring to IQOS, it is familiar to many smokers, especially those who have turned to new alternatives, such as heated tobacco. It is IQOS that makes smoke-free heat-not-burn tobacco a popular choice for smokers around the world.

In this case, many people may think smokeless heated tobacco was first introduced by PMI. In fact, there’ve been several attempts to push these products on the market before PMI’s launch of  “IQOS”.

Now, let’s have a look at the context and evolution of smokeless heated tobacco.


The first generation of heated tobacco turned out to be a failure

The first generation of smokeless cigarettes can be dated back to the late 1980s, when the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company produced and marketed its Premier brand cigarette in 1988, which they claimed was a revolutionary  “smokeless” cigarette.

In creating a non-combusting cigarette, R. J. Reynolds aimed  to find a new way of healthier smoking, so as to address tobacco-related diseases and secondhand emissions.

Premier looks similar to traditional cigarettes in terms of shape and size, whilst it works differently from traditional cigarettes.


Marketed as”the cleaner smoke”, the Premier cigarette featured a “stationary furnace” device that separates the combustion material which is carbon from the aerosol-generating material.

When consuming it, smokers light a carbon tip on the end of the cigarette to heat the tobacco and the flavor beads, which produce  a nicotine aerosol for users to inhale.

As the cigarette works by heating instead of burning tobacco, it produces minimal smoke and no tar.

Unfortunately, this first commercial heated tobacco product turned out to be a failure after 5 months of market test, due to its unpleasant smell and taste, as well as difficulty in use. 


Other attempts to bring heated tobacco products to the market

Even though the first attempt at heated tobacco was not successful, the industry players didn’t give up their efforts on developing tobacco heating products. 

In the coming years, there are other heated tobacco attempts hitting the market, such as Eclipse, the upgraded version of Premier by R. J. Reynolds in 1996, and Accord, the first attempt on heat-not-burn tobacco by PMI in 1998.

However, these heat-not-burn tobacco products had soon withdrawn from the market as they failed to satisfy the needs of consumers.

A turning point for heated tobacco with the introduction of  IQOS  

It can be said that heat-not-burn tobacco products had not been widely spread until PMI rolled out its newly developed IQOS heated tobacco in 2014.

IQOS by  PMI  includes a line of heated tobacco and e-vapor products, which are smoke-free.

With an electronic IQOS device, the IQOS tobacco heating system is designed to heat tobacco-filled sticks that are wrapped in paper to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol rather than burning it, which makes it distinctive from traditional cigarettes.

IQOS was first launched in Japan and Italy in 2014, before being gradually marketed in other countries.

Ever since then, heated tobacco has become more and more popular among smokers.


Besides IQOS, there are some other tobacco-heating product brands on the market, including glo from BAT, Ploom by Japan Tobacco, KT&G’s Lil, and so on.

In 2020, the FDA authorized the marketing of the IQOS tobacco heating system with “reduced exposure”, which made heated tobacco even more prevalent.

How does heated tobacco work differently from traditional cigarettes?

So why do we say heated tobacco smoking is safer and healthier compared with traditional cigarette smoking?

As the tobacco is heated at a lower temperature of around 350°C without burning, there is no smoke, ash, and less chemicals released.

In contrast, when smoking a traditional cigarette, you need to burn the tobacco to an extremely high temperature, say around 900°C.

During the combustion process, smoke, ash, tar, and toxic chemicals are produced, which do great harm to smokers and the people around them.

Smokers are exposed to a variety of dangerous chemicals when smoking a conventional cigarette,  including toluene, benzine, styrene, acrolein, butadiene, and so on.

These harmful chemicals may lead to various cancers, such as lung cancer and throat cancer, heart diseases, and respiratory problems.

Additionally, even people, especially infants and children who have never smoked are at high risk of suffering from heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke, if they are exposed to secondhand smoke from traditional cigarette burning in their environment.

Hence, heated tobacco smoking is considered safer and healthier than conventional cigarette smoking due to its smoke-free and significant reduction of toxic chemical emissions.

More and more smokers switch to heat-not-burn tobacco and ditch traditional cigarettes for the sake of the health of themselves and their family members or loved ones.

Heated alternatives open up an innovative way in the delivery of nicotine

With the prevalence of heated tobacco, there are a variety of newly developed heat-not-burn products hitting the market to meet everyone’s taste, among which are heated tobacco alternatives, known as heated alternatives in comparison with heated tobacco.


Like heated tobacco, a heated tobacco alternative is heated by a particular electric device to produce an aerosol that users inhale, without emitting smoke, ash and tar.

What makes heated alternative products differ from heated tobacco is that they are heated tobacco products minus tobacco.

Instead of using actual tobacco leaves, heated alternatives use herbal tea leaves, which are steeped in nicotine with flavoring ingredients to deliver an authentic tobacco smoking experience.

By replacing tobacco leaves with tea leaves,  heated alternatives allow smokers to get rid of the toxic chemicals released by tobacco. 

Heated alternative products boast various flavors to be chosen from, including coffee,  ice lemon, blueberry, mint, strawberry, Mojito and so on, which may appeal to those who want to try something refreshing, sweet or fruitful.

For those who dislike the throat hit delivered by nicotine or want to get rid of nicotine addiction, non-nicotine heated alternative products can be suitable substitutes for them.

For instance, NEAFS, the leading heated tobacco alternative brand, offers a line of nicotine-free products in addition to its nicotine-contained products, which are expected to unlock a broader range of sensory experiences.


Due to their less risky ways of nicotine delivery compared with traditional cigarettes, heated tobacco products are suitable substitutes for those who want to enjoy the throat hit brought by nicotine with less exposure to harmful compounds.

Meanwhile, heated alternative products, with its ditch of tobacco in the delivery of nicotine, represent an exciting innovation in the industry and a further step towards a smoke-free future.

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