In recent years, a new alternative to conventional cigarettes – heated tobacco products(HTPs) have gained a foothold in the tobacco market.

Unlike traditional cigarettes, which use an open flame to produce tobacco smoke for inhalation, a heat tobacco product uses a heat-not-burn(HNB) device to apply concentrated heat to headsticks to give off a nicotine-infused aerosol.

HNB devices have converted large numbers of cigarette smokers and motivated them to give up regular cigarettes to take a further step towards a smoke-free future.

Today let’s talk about heat-not-burn heating devices and their mechanism or science.

What is an HNB device? How do HTPs differ from regular cigarettes?

Heat-not-burn devices are also known as tobacco heating systems(THS) or cigarette heating systems, which are considered as alternative nicotine delivery systems.

Generally, a heat-not-burn device is a battery-powered electric heating system that heats a cigarette-like tube of tobacco to generate an inhalable aerosol that users breathe in.

The heating system is precisely controlled to keep the heating temperature not exceeding 350°C, so as to prevent the sticks from burning. In other words, no combustion takes place when a heated tobacco product is consumed.

Comparably, a traditional cigarette is ignited with an open flame to an ultra-high temperature reaching 900°C, which leads to combustion. During the burning process, the cigarette releases nicotine-containing tobacco smoke and its by-products, such as tar, ash and carbon monoxide.

These compounds contain huge amounts of toxicants and carcinogens, which are the primary cause of tobacco-related diseases.

It is well recognized that cigarette smoking is responsible for increased risks of premature deaths from lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among others.

Compared with traditional cigarettes, heated tobacco products don’t involve combustion. Therefore they don’t emit tobacco smoke and its residues. As a result, HNB products don’t expose users to toxic substances associated with conventional cigarettes.

Are HTPs the same as e-cigarettes?

Heat-not-burn devices are usually referred to as e-cigarette devices as they are similar in appearance and are both electronic devices, but in fact, they are distinctive from each other.

While e-cigarette devices heat an e-liquid to produce a nicotine-infused vapor for users to inhale, heat-not-burn devices, as mentioned above, heat actual compressed tobacco leaves to release an inhalable aerosol with a real tobacco flavor.

In other words, the essential difference between e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products is that the former does not contain tobacco leaves, while the latter does.

E-cigarettes are usually formulated with water, nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerol, ethylene glycol, aroma transporters and flavorings. The nicotine of e-cigarettes can be derived from tobacco or synthetic nicotine, while the nicotine of heat-not-burn tobacco products is naturally present in the tobacco.

Also, regarding the heating temperature, e-cigarettes remain at a temperature of around 250°C when being used, which is a bit lower than heat-not-burn devices.

Besides, heat tobacco products resemble the feeling and sensation of combustible cigarette smoking. Hence they are considered to be more similar to conventional cigarettes than e-cigarettes, which tend to separate users from a smoking-like experience.

In all, though e-cigarette devices and heat tobacco devices are visually similar, they are fundamentally different when it comes to raw materials, tastes and sensory experiences.

The mechanism behind HNB heating devices

There are a variety of HNB devices available to choose from. While these HNB devices vary in look, design, performance and brand, their mechanisms are more or less the same.

The best known of these heat-not-burn devices should be IQOS from Switzerland-based tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI), which was launched in 2014 and has secured a growing market share in the HTPs sector.

Up to date, IQOS has entered more than 50 countries, making it the most prominent HNB brand around the world.

So, let’s take a regular IQOS device for example, and see how the IQOS device works.

Though IQOS devices have been updated for several generations by far, they basically consist of a holder, also called a heating device, a pocket charger and tobacco sticks(heated sticks or HEETS), as well as plugs or capsules.

The heatsticks are like mini-size cigarettes, which are a blend of tobacco, usually a type of reconstituted tobacco, nicotine, VG, and flavorings.

The holder commonly contains an electronically controlled heating blade, which is used to heat a tobacco stick.

When using an IQOS device, you need to gently insert a tobacco stick into the holder with the filter facing outside. Then press an activation button to turn on the device.

The tobacco stick is then heated to release a nicotine-containing emission, which passes through a hollow acetate tube and a polymer film filter, delivering to the user’s mouth. The heat dissipates through the tobacco plug on a puff. After each use, the holder needs to be recharged with the charger.

Please be reminded that the heatsticks can not be removed when it is in use and should be discarded after use. Also, a heatstick can’t be lit up with any flame sources like a match or a lighter.

In addition to such HNB devices like IQOS, which use external heat sources to produce nicotine, there is another type of cigarette-like device, which adopts an embedded heat source to deliver nicotine.

This kind of HNB device contains a pressed carbon tip heat source located at one end of the stick, a tobacco-leaf filler in the middle, and a mouthpiece at the other end. The device works similarly to conventional cigarettes, which means it should be lit up with a match or a lighter.

When the carbon tip is lit, the heat is transferred from the carbon tip to the tobacco leaves, which release a nicotine-infused vapor that is inhaled by the user through the mouthpiece.

HNB devices not only work with tobacco heatsticks, but also apply to heat not burn alternative products, such as herbal heatsticks.

Herbal heatsticks : an alternative to heated tobacco products

Herbal heatsticks are referred to as heated alternative products or HNB alternatives, which are the latest innovation in the HNB products sector.

The science behind herbal heatsticks is the same as that of heated tobacco sticks, which is to use a heating control system to vaporize the sticks. During the heating process, no combustion occurs and no tobacco smoke and its by-products are released.

However, regarding the ingredients and nicotine source, herbal heatsticks are different from heat tobacco products. Unlike heat tobacco products, herbal heatsticks use natural herbs and a variety of tea leaves instead of actual tobacco leaves as base materials.

A herbal heatsticks is generally formulated with natural herbs, tea leaves, nicotine, vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and flavorings. The flavors are rich and pleasurable, which can be lemon, coffee, blueberry, mints, jasmine and more.

Besides, as herbal heatsticks don’t contain tobacco leaves, they are free from the irritation of tobacco smell and unpleasant aftertaste.

There have been a number of herbal heatsicks brands on the market, including Genmist, NEAFS, Unicco, CIGOO Ccobato, among others. Some brands come up with their own heating control system to match their herbal heatsticks. For example, NEAFS owns their unique TEO heating device.

According to NEAFS, the TEO heating device delivers 4x the usage of other similar brands, which means it offers enhanced and cost-effective performance.

What’s more, the brand claims that the TEO heating device supports all brands of tobacco-based sticks, and their herbal heatsticks are also compatible with many popular heating devices on the market, like IQOS.

Thanks to their availability, ease of use, as well as enjoyable tastes, herbal heatsticks have grown in popularity in recent years, making them the next trend of HNB products.

In summary

In short words, the emergence of HNB heating devices is an embodiment of technological advances in the nicotine delivery ecosystem. The newly-developed HNB heating control system satisfies smokers’ cravings for nicotine without causing potential hazards typical for regular cigarettes.