Humans have been enjoying tobacco for centuries, so it should come as no surprise that its use is continuing into the 21st century but in a new unique way! Let’s explore the most revolutionary approach to tobacco for decades: the “heat-not-burn” movement.
What is heat-not-burn?
In the past, tobacco has primarily been set alight and inhaled; burning. This has been the staple for over 500 years and has evolved little in that time. Pipes were swapped for conventional rolled cigarettes, but that small change aside, setting tobacco alight has been the standard for most of human usage of the leaf. However, now people are discovering the benefits of vaping tobacco. It has always been clear that tobacco can produce enjoyable effects without being set alight. Chewing tobacco, for example, is exactly what it sounds like; the user chews tobacco and obtains nicotine, the addictive stimulant chemical found in tobacco leaf. Chewing tobacco was the clue; the sign that perhaps you don’t have to set tobacco alight to enjoy its benefits.
What the heat-not-burn movement has done is take two different ideas and brought them together. The idea of heating tobacco is taken from conventional usage with cigarettes; this has been combined with the fact, obtained from chewing tobacco, that tobacco does not need to be lit to produce an effect for the user.
Heat-not-burn involves heating tobacco rather than setting it alight ie. vaporizing the tobacco. This is usually achieved with electronic tobacco vaporizers such as the V2 Pro Series 3 and V2 Pro Series 7 Heat Not Burn Kit which allow loose leaf tobacco to be heated, but not burned. For dedicated wax concentrates and herb enthusiasts take a look at the "5th Degree" dry herb vaporizer range from Prohibited.
How is heat-not-burn preferable to smoking conventional cigarettes?
A huge number of the health issues that cigarettes contain are not actually derived from the tobacco itself, but the smoke that is produced.
It’s a shocking statistic, but it’s true: tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 different chemicals, some of which can be hugely harmful to human health. The most obvious of these chemicals is nicotine, which is why people become addicted to smoking. However, to obtain nicotine through conventional smoking, you have to be willing to also inhale the following:
- Carbon monoxide; which can be poisonous at high doses.
- Tar; which is associated with causing cancer. When tar is introduced to the delicate cells of the lungs, mutations occur, and these can lead to cancers.
- Formaldehyde; a known carcinogen.
- Ammonia; again, a known carcinogen. Many of us have experienced ammonia through domestic use; you may be shocked to realise this chemical is present in cigarette smoke.
- Hydrogen cyanide; a deadly poison and, once again, a known carcinogen.
- Lead; another known carcinogen to add to the list and many, many, many more besides.
A huge number of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke are carcinogenic, which is why the act of smoking can quadruple your chances of suffering from lung cancer. While tobacco is not inherently harmless, there is no doubt that with conventional smoking, it’s the smoke that’s the problem-- not the tobacco itself. One way of evidencing this can be found when considering the threat posed by secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke alone can cause cancers; this link has been proven, and forms the science behind the public smoking bans that many countries have introduced. With secondhand smoke, a person has no experience of the actual tobacco-- they are not in contact with the tobacco. All they experience is the smoke, and this is enough to cause cancerous mutations in their cells. So, let’s underline: It’s the smoke that is harmful regarding conventional smoking, not the tobacco itself.
How do you heat tobacco without burning it?
This is the key question, and it’s one the always-innovative Japanese have been able to figure out. The technology for heat-not-burn actually comes from e-cigarettes. To understand heat-not-burn, you have to understand how e-cigarettes work. Here’s a quick primer if you’re not familiar with this:
- E-cigarettes have two main parts, an atomiser and a battery.
- The atomiser is filled with e-liquid; this e-liquid contains nicotine and is available at varying strengths.
- The atomiser is then attached to a battery.
- The battery delivers an electrical charge to the atomiser, heating the e-liquid contained inside and turning it to vapour.
- The user then inhales this vapour, delivering the nicotine as a cigarette would, but without all the harmful smoke, tar and carcinogens that are generated when cigarettes burn.
The same premise applies to heat-not-burn methods. Here’s how it works in practice:
- Loose-leaf tobacco is used in place of e-liquid.
- The shredded moist tobacco is placed inside a tobacco vaporiser
- The battery sends an electrical charge through to the tobacco cartridge, heating it and producing a vapour.
- This vapour is then inhaled, delivering a nicotine ‘hit’-- but without the toxic burning smoke of conventional cigarettes.
How hot does the tobacco have to be to be vapable?
Heat-not-burn devices tend to heat the tobacco to around 260C/500F to produce a vapour. That is they effectively vaporize the volatile oils of the tobacco. This might sound like a scarily high temperature, but it is comparable with e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes tend to heat e-liquid to around 280C/536F, with some ‘mod’ devices reaching up to 400C/750F. There is no need for concern about the heat generated by tobacco vaporizer devices, as the heating mechanism is safely contained and cannot be touched while in use. For comparison, the temperature at the hot/burning end of a traditional cigarette can reach nearly 900 degrees centrigrade during a puff.
Is a Tobacco Vaporizer healthier than e-cigarette vapour?
This is an area that requires a lot more research. In fact, the health benefits of e-cigarettes alone require more research! These are still very new technologies, so definitively saying one is preferable to another is difficult. What can be said, with absolute confidence, is that e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn devices are healthier than conventional cigarettes. Both methods remove the need for smoke, and the toxic chemicals contained therein, to be inhaled-- which is great news for the user’s lungs.
In an ideal world, people would not want to use nicotine-containing products at all-- but that simply isn’t realistic. If you want to use nicotine products, then it is safe to assume -- on present research -- that non-smoke options like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn are preferable to conventional cigarettes. The difference is stark; remove the smoke, remove many of the issues.
Is heat-not-burn usage more pleasurable than e-cigarette usage?
The problem with this question is that the answer is very subjective. Some users love heat-not-burn. This is the kind of positive feedback that this technique receives:
- Users love the fact that it’s actual tobacco, rather than an e-liquid that has been formulated to taste like tobacco.
- The ‘throat hit’ is preferable. The throat hit is a feeling that the user experiences when inhaling vapour or smoke; it’s a tangible ‘hit’ feeling that immediately satisfies cravings. While e-cigarette technology has developed a decent throat hit, it still lags behind conventional cigarettes by quite a distance. Heat-not-burn, however, manages to replicate the throat hit of conventional cigarettes extremely well.
Heat-not-burn users also prefer the idea they are ‘vaping’ loose leaf tobacco, which is a natural substance. This is seen as preferable to the synthetic e-liquids that are available, some of which can irritate the throat of the user.So for some users, heat-not-burn is vastly superior in experience to e-cigarettes and a process they enjoy. It is closer to smoking, but without the downsides of the toxic cigarette smoke. The taste is great, the throat hit is sublime, and it’s an innovation that has been welcomed. Of course, there will always be some people who disagree. Proponents of e-cigarettes may argue:
- They have become accustomed to flavoured vaping. E-liquid is available in a wide variety of flavours, including fruit, sweet, and even alcohol-tasting flavours. This variety and the fun experimentation that comes with it is often embraced by users, who don’t feel the need to turn back to conventional tobacco.
- Many users do not miss the throat hit of conventional cigarettes, so they feel little benefit from switching to heat-not-burn. As we’ve said: it’s subjective. There are benefits to both devices, and there is no reason they can’t exist alongside one another, so users can select whichever they prefer.
There is an important final note here, however. Theoretically, heat-not-burn may be more effective at helping people to stop smoking than e-cigarettes are. The reason for this is simple; very little changes. The experience of heat-not-burn devices is a much closer mimic of conventional cigarettes than e-liquids, which can put people off with their fruity flavours. However e-cigarettes can help because they tend to be smaller than tobacco vaporizers.
E-liquids also require a learning process. The user has to learn about e-liquids, how to handle them, how to understand their strength ratios. They have to learn about all the different devices; the atomisers, the clearomizers, the tanks, the ‘mods’. It can be a confusing world to someone who just wants to quit smoking and is just starting out. That is the main reason most people find the straight forward cartomizer e cigarette the best option to begin with, no e-liquid issues there because it is all pre-filled in an easy to use refill cartridge
Compared to this, heat-not-burn is blissfully simple and overwhelmingly familiar. It’s tobacco. There’s no new e-liquid rules to learn; you just insert the tobacco and away you go. The taste is the same; authentic and genuine, rather than a synthetic reproduction of what tobacco should taste like. There’s no aftertaste like there can be with e-liquids; essentially, it’s smoking without the smoke.
We all know how difficult quitting conventional cigarettes is. We know the battles people face, the aborted attempts, the nicotine replacement therapy patches that only work in a very small number of cases. If heat-not-burn offers an authentic replica for the smoking experience, but without the toxic health effects, then this should be welcomed.
Is heat-not-burn popular?
Heat-not-burn is a relative newcomer into the world of nicotine consumption, but every product has to start somewhere. E-cigarettes were created in 2003 by the Chinese scientist Hon Lik, but it is only in the past five years that they have really spread into the mainstream. Heat-not-burn is a just a technological baby compared to e-cigarettes, and the use is not widespread.
However, usage is increasing. Heat-not-burn has become popular in Japan, from where the technology originates, and is now competing with both conventional cigarettes and electronic devices. Reputable herb vaporizers also use this type of conduction heating.
The popularity in Japan is easy to understand. Japan regulates e-liquid ferociously; it can be expensive and difficult to source outside of main metropolitan areas. The rules and restrictions around the production of e-liquid, and the sales of vaping kits, are stringent, and many companies have struggled to make their mark under such strong regulatory control.
Vaporisers used for heat-not-burn devices, however, are not regulated in the same way. This is because they are essentially batteries; the tobacco that is needed to use them is already widely available. This gap in the regulations has allowed heat-not-burn vaporizer technology to establish a foothold and become more popular.
There are also signs the popularity is beginning to spread. Studies have shown that the USA market, for example, is open to the idea of heat-not-burn and may be tempted to switch. It is easy to see why this is the case; heat-not-burn solves many of the issues that ex-smokers have with vaping. The throat hit factor seems to be definitive, as well as the improved taste and the simpler process.
Will heat-not-burn replace e-cigarettes?
It is very unlikely that tobacco vaping will replace e-cigarettes. E-cigarette technology has moved quickly and represents a straight forward method to transition away from smoking. Many vapers will not want to make the switch to heat-not-burn, so e-cigarettes will always have a place on the market.
However, the scope appears to be there for heat-not-burn to become a legitimate parallel industry to the vaping market. The money is there to ensure awareness of the product increases; as you may expect, big tobacco companies are backing heat-not-burn, so it is likely that knowledge and usage of the product will grow. Vapers who are asked if they would be interested in learning more, or even trying, heat-not-burn tend to respond in the affirmative-- the market will inevitably catch up with these sentiments.
Heat-not-burn is another step in the evolution of human tobacco use. The ease of use, improved taste, and great throat hit mean that both vapers and smokers may be intrigued by sampling what these devices can do. One thing that everyone can agree is that alternatives to conventional cigarettes, and its toxic smoke, are necessary. It is becoming clear that heat-not-burn technology has earned its place as one of the alternatives, and its growth could be set to be exponential.