How is heat not burn technology a smoking alternative?

Heat-Not-Burn and a Smoke Free Future

The move to a Smoke-Free world

When Philip Morris International (PMI), the owners of Marlboro cigarettes, decided to change its strategy to a smoke-free future, the decision was not taken in a whim. It was backed by 10 years of research amounting to an investment of $4.5bn (R54.96bn).

The company was so invested in this decision that in March 2018 Philip Morris announced that a factory of its Greek affiliate would stop cigarette production and solely focus on manufacturing a potentially healthier alternative known as tobacco sticks or “HEETS” as they are marketed. An electronic device known as an IQOS uses heat-not-burn technology to heat the tobacco at controlled temperatures. Instead of emitting smoke, or leaving behind ash, an aerosol is given off which does not linger.

PMI South Africa’s CEO Marcelo Nico shared his optimism for getting smokers in South Africa to shift to smoke-free tobacco product. PMI wants to get smokers to switch to “a better alternative” as Nico put it.

 “We assume combustible products will gradually go down in sales and eventually disappear… Some consumers will stop smoking and some will switch to smoke-free alternatives. We clearly see a future as a smokeless company”.

 Targeting smokers

Nico said that the intention is not to get new consumers to start using the IQOS, but instead to get smokers, even those of their competitors to switch to IQOS. “We want to communicate to South Africans who are smoking - if they want to continue to smoke there are better alternatives than tobacco,” he said. “Society is expecting us to act responsibly, this is a fundamental element of that. Secondly based on 10 years of research that we have been doing - we have arrived at an alternative that is significantly better than continuing to smoke. It will not only reduce the smell and combustion but also dangers - that is the right thing to do,” said Nico.

 Heat-not-burn tech is an alternative for adult smokers

Many of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke are the result of combustion: the burning of tobacco that is part of the process of smoking. When a cigarette is lit, the tobacco inside it ignites to generate smoke. The cigarette will continue to burn if it has enough fuel (tobacco) and available oxygen. The burning process can cause the temperature at the tip of the cigarette to reach up to 800 degrees centigrade and triggers the release of more than 6 000 chemicals, many of which are harmful.

 What is heat-not-burn technology?

PMI applied the heat-not-burn tobacco concept to developing a range of products called IQOS, for adult smokers who want a substitute for conventional cigarette smoking.

Unlike e-cigarettes and vapes that use flavoured liquid, IQOS heats up real tobacco to 350 degrees centigrade releasing the full taste profile of tobacco, without having to burn it and in the process emitting 95% fewer harmful chemicals than is the case when compared to smoking cigarettes*. 

The IQOS holder contains a ceramic blade that heats up when activated. Users place a specially designed tobacco stick, called HEETS, into the holder where the heated blade warms the tobacco to 350 degrees centigrade. This sophisticated technology, while ensuring that the heat level of the tobacco is controlled, generates a vapour containing nicotine that allows the user to experience the taste of real tobacco without burning it.


To find out more about how IQOS works, check out our FAQ section or contact us through our Support page.

Important information: It does not necessarily equal a 95% reduction in risk.
IQOS is not risk-free.

*Average reduction in levels of a broad range of harmful chemicals (excluding nicotine) compared to the smoke of a reference cigarette (3R4F).


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This website contains information about our smoke-free products and we need your age to make sure that you are an adult in South Africa who would otherwise continue to smoke or use nicotine products. Our nicotine and tobacco products are not an alternative to quitting and are not designed as cessation aids. They are not risk free. They contain nicotine, which is addictive. Only for use by adults. Please visit the Important Information page of this website for further risk information