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An Alternative to the Alternative

Thu 1 Feb 2018


Hi folks, I’ll hold my hands up, and I am ashamed to admit it, but before this week I had not heard of “IQOS”. Nobody had cared to enlighten me (no pun intended, and certainly not literally), my head has been in the clouds of wonderful vape when it comes to the alternatives to the alternative.

For my fellow ignorants, IQOS is a smokeless cigarette. It works by heating the tobacco to create a vapour, much in the same way as a conventional e-cigarette works with juice, but using slightly different technologies, and involves absolutely no combustion, quite incredible really when the laws of physics suggest combustion requires a flammable source (dry tobacco), ignition (focused heat) and oxygen. The claim is that around 95% of the harmful chemicals are removed, and nicotine control is currently being worked on too.

This week in the USA, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) are to assess whether or not the IQOS will be the first product to be granted dispensation to be sold as “Lower Risk”. This affects the rights to product placement, advertising and marketing, packaging etc. It is effectively a seal of approval which we in the UK seek from the NHS for e-cigs.

I have to say, I’m both fascinated and tempted but also wary. I shouldn’t be wary, I’m a big advocate of vaping, I have refused to accept the propaganda for what I feel is an unwritten war against vaping by the big tobacco companies, workplaces, the EU and other large governing institutions. This IQOS should be another alternative that should be encouraged, at least considering my principals towards vaping.

Yet I’m not 100% sure this is necessarily a good route to take.

We have come so far with vaping, and although we are fighting what seems to be a losing battle sometimes to gain 100% social acceptance, there is a distinction in law between electronic cigarette devices and cigarettes. The IQOS is in a grey area, or at the very least up for legal challenge. I can imagine if these become popular, there would be a demand to be allowed to use indoors in the same way as vaping, and this would only go one way – a ban of everything in indoor public spaces. Categorised alongside cigarettes. Demonised. Banished.
Anyone switching from cigarettes to an IQOS will be doing themselves a massive favour yes, I do not doubt that, and wish them all the best. Yet it is still far far more favourable financially and in terms of health to switch an e-cigarette.


Additionally, while big corporate entities seek to automate jobs and small town high streets shut down, e cigarettes have been a literal breath of fresh air, creating jobs, shops, small businesses, variety and a healthy happiness amongst the vape community. The same big conglomerate tobacco firms, who have contently made billions of pounds out of people’s addiction and sufferance for years and years will control the production of the tobacco for the IQOS. It is highly unlikely (although they should be applauded if they do so) that IQOS source and sell their own tobacco in the long term properly. In reality, the tobacco will be produced by the very same slaves in undeveloped nations. OK, I am aware of, and I will be fair here, some of the product for e-cigarettes comes from China, but the bulk of juice is mixed and packaged in the country of sale, the technological developments are by properly paid people, and the supply chain would never need be investigated by Fairtrade.

What would interest me most, hypothetically in a couple of years if this takes off, is not the rate of smokers who have turned to IQOS (current estimates are around 4 million worldwide), but how many vapers turn to it. While yes, many people make the healthy option, would many make the technically unhealthy option?



Written by ELFC content creator Alex Blatherwick


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