Although heated tobacco was developed in the eighties by tobacco manufacturers, it never became particularly popular. So, what is heated tobacco? Why is it being talked about again? And is it something vapers should be worried about?
Put simply, heated tobacco (sometimes known as “heat-not-burn tobacco”) is a tobacco product, similar in appearance to a vape pen, which heats tobacco to a lower temperature than burning a cigarette. Heating tobacco like this can release nicotine and some of the flavour but less of the chemicals usually found in cigarette smoke. The intention was to create an experience similar to smoking a cigarette but less harmful.
When they were first sold these heated tobacco products were not successful but several large tobacco companies are reintroducing heated tobacco products. They are hoping to capitalise on the success of vaping and target the group of smokers who feel that vaping doesn’t satisfy their cravings or reproduce the experience of smoking a cigarette that they were hoping for.
On the surface heated tobacco can look like a great idea. If it really is significantly safer than cigarettes, as the tobacco industry claimed, then it provides more opportunities for smokers looking to quit. But it isn’t as simple as that. Independent studies have shown that heated tobacco isn’t as safe as originally claimed.
Heated tobacco might also be too little too late if the tobacco industry is hoping to compete with the growing success of vaping. While some smokers have found that vaping doesn’t satisfy their cravings and replicate the smoking experience as they had hoped, this number is quickly shrinking. Vaping is a rapidly developing industry and new products are coming out all the time. New atomisers like the ones from Juul are designed to better recreate the smoking experience to satisfy smokers who struggled with other vaping kits. So, the target audience for heated tobacco is not as large as it was a couple of years ago and heated tobacco has to compete with the significantly less harmful vaping.
Research by the tobacco industry has claimed that heated tobacco is around ninety to ninety-five percent less harmful than smoking, with a significant reduction in dangerous chemicals. But more recent, independent research has contradicted these claims.
While there may be fewer chemicals released when using heated tobacco, they include tar, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and many other harmful and carcinogenic chemicals. This makes heated tobacco a lot more dangerous than it was originally claimed.
As heated tobacco has only recently appeared on everyone’s radars, there hasn’t been as much research into the harmful effects compared to smoking or vaping. These new, independent studies are just the beginning, more research needs to be done to give us a better idea of how dangerous heated tobacco products can be.
Compared To Smoking
While some heated tobacco products can look very similar to vape pens, they use very different processes. Vaping involves vaporising a liquid which contains flavourings and sometimes nicotine, heated tobacco involves heating tobacco to release nicotine and other chemicals but without allowing the tobacco to burn like a cigarette. Heating the tobacco like this creates a vapour that contains nicotine and some of the flavour of the tobacco but without smoke.
But if you’re a smoker who’s looking to use vaping or heated tobacco to help quit smoking, the most important comparisons are how safe the two products are and how they compare to smoking a cigarette.
Research has shown that the vapour produced by heated tobacco products contains between fifty and ninety percent fewer harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke. As there has only been a limited amount of research into heated tobacco, they’re unable to determine the exact levels of harmful chemicals. But the amount is clearly higher than the tobacco industry originally claimed and also significantly higher than vaping.
Depending on the exact levels of harmful chemicals, heated tobacco may be around fifty to ninety percent safer than smoking. This makes heated tobacco less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but still far from safe.
We know that quitting cigarettes entirely improves health and life expectancy, so if heated tobacco helps people quit that is a good thing. But the risks associated with heated tobacco are still much higher than with vaping, so it would be better for your health to use vaping instead of heated tobacco to help quit smoking. Public Health England and the NHS have already acknowledged that vaping can significantly improve smokers chances of quitting for good and is around ninety-five percent safer.
Heated Tobacco Products have been around for decades and were not very successful when they were first sold. But with the success of vaping and the decline in smoking, some tobacco companies are pushing heated tobacco as a way to help quit smoking. The tobacco industry has claimed that heated tobacco is far less harmful than smoking and that it does a better job of recreating the cigarette experience compared to vaping.
However, independent research has shown that heated tobacco products are more harmful than originally claimed. More research needs to be done, but the evidence so far suggests that heated tobacco produces around fifty to ninety percent less harmful chemicals than smoking a cigarette. This makes heated tobacco significantly more dangerous than vaping which has been repeatedly shown to be around ninety-five percent less harmful than smoking.
As for the claim that heated tobacco is better at recreating the experience of smoking a cigarette, that is no longer as true as it once was. Vaping is a rapidly developing industry and new technology like the Juul system helps capture the feel of smoking a cigarette more than older atomisers.
So, while heated tobacco seems to be less harmful than cigarettes, it is still more dangerous than vaping. If you’re trying to quit then the healthier option is to try vaping or other nicotine replacement systems like nicotine patches or gum before turning to heated tobacco.