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Is Heated Tobacco Trying to Muscle in on E-Cigarettes?

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The soaring popularity of e-cigarettes is attracting Big Tobacco’s attention.

Giant tobacco companies are in a panic. There's no doubt about it. These multibillion-pound enterprises that ruled the world and hoovered up enormous revenues from people around the globe who were hooked on their products are seeing their once-thriving markets dry up. We have indeed come a long way from the glorification of smoking to the realisation that it is deadly and the single largest cause of preventable death around the globe. In January, we had the shock announcement that one of the largest tobacco companies of them all, Philip Morris, was “giving up cigarettes”, in Britain at least. The maker of the iconic Marlboro and other leading cigarette brands has no choice: here, people are increasingly kicking their unhealthy habit — and many of them are doing it with the help of e-cigarettes. This, now, is the target of Big Tobacco. Yes, cigarette companies are getting into the vaping game, and they're also trying to come up with tobacco products they deem less harmful than smoking burning tobacco — or that’s what they’re trying to convince people of, at least. Enter heated tobacco. Just what can this peculiar creature be, and how does it work?
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Heated Tobacco and E-Cigarettes

The idea behind heated tobacco is quite simple: tobacco sticks (names HEETS, or TEREA) are placed in a vaping-like device and, using a battery, is heated to a level that releases the nicotine that smokers crave. Tobacco firms like Philip Morris claim this prevents many of the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals found in burning tobacco and is therefore healthier. Not everyone agrees. In the United States, an expert panel at the Food and Drug Administration examined Philip Morris' heated tobacco assertions and a device it has already introduced to markets around the world: the IQOS. Philip Morris was seeking government accreditation for the product that it is a safer alternative to smoking, and wanted to be the first tobacco company to get it.  However, the advisory panel rejected the claims and were not happy with the science behind them. It said there was no evidence to support the argument that “scientific studies have shown that switching completely from cigarettes to the IQOS system can reduce the risks of tobacco-related diseases.” The FDA is expected to make a final decision on the application in the next few months, and the agency has historically tended to follow the advice of its expert panels in these kinds of cases.

Getting into the E-Cigarette Business

Big tobacco companies are not only attempting to peddle what they claim are safer tobacco products, but they are also developing their own e-cigarette brands. Philip Morris alone has said it's pouring billions of pounds into researching and developing e-cigarettes — because, increasingly, that's where the money is. In the 10 years since smoking was banned from enclosed public spaces in England, vaping has gone on to become a £1 billion business, with around 3 million vapers currently in the UK. Not only can it be an experience that’s similar to smoking, but it’s among the most effective ways of giving up — according to our friends at the NHS. It’s abundantly clear that tobacco is a dying business and the big cigarette firms are indeed trying to muscle into healthier alternatives. So far, few people agree that heated tobacco products can be included in this desirable category, but it’s a safe bet that large tobacco companies like Philip Morris won’t give up without an almighty fight.

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