Heated tobacco cigarettes- are they a healthier alternative to cigarettes?

by Kremy

a man smoking hybrid cigarette

Is the new type of heated tobacco cigarettes as bad for your health as traditional cigarettes? According to some studies, the new tobacco products also cause some damage to lung cells. Smokeless, heated tobacco and biopolymer products that do not burn are already incredibly popular, but they have not made it into all countries yet. In this article we try to address the most important health aspects of the new smoker trend. Read on to learn some useful information about modern heated tobacco products. Will you give up ordinary smoking?

Are heated tobacco cigarettes better for your health?

two boxes and heat not burn tobbaco device


In much the same way that e-cigarettes have been promoted as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, public health experts believe that heated tobacco cigarettes could be the next big step for the tobacco industry. However, you may want to think again before trying the trend. The so-called HNB (Heat-Not-Burn) cigarettes may not be as safe to health as its manufacturer claims. The company praised the commercialization of its new product as a revolutionary technology that heats tobacco without burning it. Thus, you can enjoy the true taste of tobacco without smoke, ashes and without smell.

scientist experiment with aerosol cigarette smoking vs smokeless tobacco

But is it really like that? A research group from the universities of Bern, Lausanne and Geneva – all in Switzerland – dealt with the matter. Their findings, which were published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association /Internal Medicine on May 22, 2017, contradict advertising. The researchers used standardized, internationally acceptable methods to test the heated tobacco cigarette and compare it to tobacco cigarettes. At a rate of two puffs per minute, they inhaled the exhaled aerosol in a glass filter. Researchers conducted numerous analyzes to determine the constituents of the vapor.

What exactly are heated tobacco cigarettes?

content of heat not burn cigarettes

While smoking cigarettes remains one of the most pressing global health problems of our time, newer forms of smoking devices have been introduced worldwide in the last decade. Electronic nicotine / non-nicotine delivery systems, commonly known as electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), heat a solution (liquid) to generate steam. The most recent addition to this list is the introduction of HNB (Heat-Not-Burn) tobacco products. These tobacco products are actually hybrids between electronic cigarettes and conventional tobacco cigarettes. This means that they are equipped with a device that heats the contents without burning to produce aerosols, and the product to be heated is not liquid, but real tobacco.

heating element of iQoS device for heated tobacco cigarettes

The heated tobacco cigarettes are soaked in propylene glycol and, after drying, introduced into an HNB cigarette holder. When heated with an electric heating rod, the tobacco is heated to 350 degrees Celsius, creating a feeling similar to smoking a normal cigarette. Propylene glycol, classified as a safe human product by the US Food and Drug Administration, is used as a preservative for tobacco, among other uses. Traditional tobacco cigarettes usually burn at a little less than 800 degrees Celsius.

Do heated tobacco cigarettes contain fewer pollutants?

neat not burn cigarettes and heating device on a table

In their study, the researchers also found that heated tobacco cigarettes contained 84% of the nicotine contained in conventional cigarettes. While nicotine in itself is not a carcinogen for humans, its inhalation has been postulated as the cause of cancer-causing tumors. Among the chemicals of the smoke, the scientists and physicians isolated carbon monoxide and those with names such as acrolein, benzaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acenaphthene among more than two dozen others. The percentage of the last four chemicals compared to cigarettes was 82%, 50%, 74% and 295%. None of the other chemicals was greater than 41% of the amount found in a normal cigarette.

How harmful are new heated tobacco products

The research team used heated tobacco cigarettes and compared them to cigarettes. HNB cigarettes are sold in at least 19 countries worldwide. Japanese respondents to an Internet survey published in 2015 showed that former and current smokers and those aged 15-39 tended to smoke HNB tobacco cigarettes. This study also breaks new ground by highlighting the possible harmful effects of smoking HNB cigarettes. It is also emphasized that HNB cigarette smoke can be considered as exhaled smoke.

Are heated tobacco cigarettes less harmful than cigarettes?

cigarette with ash on wooden table

By way of limitation, the study could have used a larger number of cigarette brands when comparing HNB and conventional varieties. Overall, the results show that while inhaled smoke is ephemeral, its consequences may not be. Because of their novelty there is little scientific research on these devices regarding their safety and usefulness for smoking cessation. The study concludes that cigarettes and e-cigarettes can cause inflammation, oxidative stress and other deleterious effects on the lungs and respiratory tract. In the long term, this can lead to serious health problems that typically occur to smokers, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

Heated tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes

what are the risks in nicotine of heated tobacco cigarette

Non-burning tobacco products are the most innovative iteration of electronic smoking. Unlike e-cigarettes and vaporizers, however, no nicotine-enriched liquid (“e-juice”) is used. They use real tobacco. Inside the unit is a carefully calibrated heating mechanism that heats the tobacco to approximately 299°C below the combustion temperature and produces an inhalable aerosol.

compare heated tobacco and e cigarettes with nicotine liquidImage credits

Part of the attractiveness of such devices is that they can produce a feeling like with conventional smoking, which is often absent in other smokeless e-cigarette models. Heat-not-burn products are not yet available around the world, but in test markets such as Europe and Asia, where they have been available since 2014, they have proved incredibly popular. So the tobacco industry still needs to prove that its latest products, such as these tobacco products, may be less harmful than cigarettes. Until then, the regulatory environment assumes that it is another tobacco product.

Do heated tobacco cigarettes help quit smoking?

blonde woman drinking coffee holding iQoS

A federal debate continues today. People should get information about whether e-cigarettes and vaporizers actually help smokers quit. Another and equally important issue is the young generation, which feels addressed and easily attracted. In fact, heated tobacco cigarettes advertising campaigns are likely to affect young nonsmokers as well.

are heated tobacco cigarettes more harmful than cigarettes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have seen a dramatic increase of 1.5 million adolescent tobacco users between 2017 and 2018. This is due to the popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents. While the role of e-cigarettes over tobacco use is clear, they play a much smaller role in quitting smoking. Public health experts claim that heated tobacco cigarettes are just another attempt to get more people to smoke.

What is the risk?

The consumption of heated tobacco cigarettes is logically not without risk, although it produces less harmful pollutants. The manufacturer even claims that they are up to 95% less. They still produce nicotine, which is a very addictive, hazardous substance. All symptoms and especially their explanations are based only on observations. These are not exactly measurable and cannot be considered more important than the opinion of an expert. If you have any health problems, no matter when, you should talk to your doctor.

close up tobacco from a cigarette

However, as mentioned above, some researchers analyzed the chemical compounds and nicotine in the smoke of traditional cigarettes. These are new devices that are suitable for heating disposable heated tobacco cigarettes and for tasting tobacco without smoke or ash. Non-burning cigarettes also release carcinogenic chemicals including carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

man soking a heated iQoS tobacco cigarette

However, there is no safe minimum limit for some of the non-incinerated cigarette smoke chemicals, and some of these chemicals can contribute to the high mortality rate of smokers. Based on their findings, the researchers conclude that heated tobacco cigarettes should fall under the same smoking ban. These also apply to traditional cigarettes and prevent bystanders from inhaling the vapors. This is because the new tobacco products are threatening the progress in reducing the damage caused by secondhand smoke. Existing bans may not apply to cigarettes that you just heat up.

The conclusion

woman in blue holds heated tobacco device

What conclusion should a regular user draw? Heated tobacco cigarettes are definitely harmful and cannot be recommended to non-smokers. For a classic cigarette smoker, the heat-not-burn cigarette contains 80% to 90% less dangerous ingredients despite the potentially unknown harmful substances. Some experts have already admitted that. The resulting steam from the evaporation of glycerol from the heated tobacco cigarettes contains no tar. In most cases, this is the main cause of illness and cancers.

marlboro man smoking iqos heated tobacco cigarette

It has also become clear that smoking heated tobacco cigarettes significantly improves breathing after an initial cough of the tar from the lungs and makes the person feel better in a while. In addition, there is often a very high percentage of smokers who have been helped by these tobacco products to stop smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes. Nonetheless, we recommend that you take care of your health by minimizing the burden on your lungs.


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