Heated Tobacco vs Smoking Cigarettes

As an adult smoker looking to switch to an alternative to cigarettes, there is so much to consider and factor into the decision. Finding an alternative to smoking that suits personal needs can seem difficult at first. That is why, in the case of heated tobacco versus cigarettes, it is worth learning the crucial differences and discovering if switching to heated tobacco really is a better option than continued smoking.


Heated tobacco is not risk-free. This product contains nicotine, which is addictive. The best decision is to quit consumption of tobacco and nicotine products completely. Heated tobacco products are not alternatives to quitting and are not designed as cessation aids.


How Does Heated Tobacco Work?


Tobacco is burned in cigarettes. In the case of some heated tobacco devices these are designed with technology that heats the tobacco instead of burning it. This is the biggest and most important difference in heated tobacco vs smoking cigarettes. Of course, it is a matter of scientific assessment of each particular heated tobacco product to see if this is actually the case.


The Key Differences between Heated Tobacco vs Cigarettes


Fundamentally, in the comparison of heated tobacco versus cigarettes, both options provide the user with a tobacco experience. Understanding this can be useful for adult smokers who want to continue enjoying tobacco. However, despite the familiarity, heated tobacco is actually very different from cigarettes.


Combustion is the most crucial difference in heated tobacco vs smoking. Many of a cigarette’s most harmful chemicals and substances are produced during the burning process. In some heated tobacco products, there is no combustion. Carbon monoxide, abbreviated as CO, is an odourless, colourless toxic gas. It is produced in large amounts when some things burn - like fuels, wood, or the tobacco in cigarettes; and it is so famously harmful that most of us have alarms to warn of its presence in our homes.


When CO is inhaled, it is absorbed through your lungs into your bloodstream and reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to your body, affecting your brain, heart and muscles. This may result in the heart working harder to get enough oxygen to all parts of your body. Your heart itself receives less oxygen, which may contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases.


Many people wrongly assume that the same must be true of any smoking alternative that uses tobacco. However, IQOS doesn’t burn tobacco, but heats it, producing on average 98% less carbon monoxide and significantly lower levels of other harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes.* Therefore, switching completely to IQOS significantly reduces the level of carbon monoxide in your body compared to continued smoking.


IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This does not mean a 98% reduction in risk, and carbon monoxide is only one of many harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke. IQOS is not risk free, and provides nicotine which is addictive.


* We measured the levels of the 9 harmful chemicals the World Health Organization recommends to reduce in cigarette smoke, which do not include nicotine, and these are reduced on average by 95%. See Important information.


Tar is the residue from smoke after a cigarette is burned. IQOS does not produce tar because it heats tobacco instead of burning it. It generates an aerosol residue that is fundamentally different from tar and consists of significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals.* Learn more about these topics with our articles on carbon monoxide and our guide to tar. These harmful substances are just two examples of harm reduction in heated tobacco. For a comprehensive breakdown of the risk reduction in heated tobacco, read our article Harm Reduction in Heated Tobacco.


IMPORTANT INFORMATION: The absence of tar does not mean that IQOS is risk free. IQOS provides nicotine, which is addictive.


* Reductions in levels of the 9 harmful chemicals the World Health Organization recommends to reduce in cigarette smoke, which do not include nicotine. See Important information.


Other differences tend to be product specific and that is why personal research is important when looking for the right smoke-free alternative. Certain brands will prioritize one function such as battery power, whereas another brand might focus on flavour. We recommend a high-quality device that incorporates modern smoke-free innovation, and which offers a better alternative to continued smoking. If a device like this is your priority, then consider IQOS. Designed with years of research and expertise, IQOS is a choice for any adult smoker who would otherwise continue to smoke. However, it is important to note that these products are not risk-free and contain nicotine, which is addictive.


IQOS vs Cigarettes


IQOS is the #1 tobacco heating system.* Offering real tobacco taste and satisfaction, IQOS emits 95% less harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes.** This does not mean IQOS is risk-free. IQOS also provides nicotine which is an addictive substance. However, when considering the differences in IQOS heated tobacco versus cigarettes, it is worth reiterating that based on the scientific evidence so far, switching completely to IQOS presents less risk to your health than continuing to smoke.***


Attributing to years of development, IQOS has been crafted as part of our vision for a smoke-free future. The range of IQOS have been crafted with adult smokers in mind.


Important information: IQOS is not risk-free and provides nicotine, which is addictive.


*  PMI global estimate of total In-Market Sales of Heated Tobacco Units as of sepember 2023 (excluding Russia and Ukraine).


* “95% less” represents the average reduction in levels of the 9 chemicals recommended for reduction in cigarette smoke by the World Health Organization, which do not include nicotine. See Important information.


*** Based on the totality of evidence available for IQOS in comparison with continuing to smoke.


IQOS Heated Tobacco


IQOS produces no ash, and unlike cigarettes, IQOS does not burn tobacco and therefore produces no smoke - a crucial difference between IQOS heated tobacco and smoking. Furthermore, IQOS will leave significantly less staining on your curtains and furniture than cigarette smoke. This means there is less to worry about and more to enjoy. Smokers who switched to IQOS feel more comfortable getting close to people than they did after smoking a cigarette. Shop for IQOS heated tobacco devices in the online store - or discover smoke-free innovation with our technology page.


IQOS does not forsake quality. Our tobacco sticks work with the device to deliver an authentic tobacco taste. From the robust and malty tobacco experience to the toasted tobacco blend and nutty aroma, there is something for every adult smoker.


Our latest device - IQOS ILUMA - is slightly different and that is because of our all-new SMARTCORE INDUCTION SYSTEM. With its inclusion, IQOS ILUMA provides you with stick-by-stick taste consistency. Furthermore, IQOS ILUMA does not need cleaning to ensure optimal performance. Our specially-designed tobacco sticks co-ordinate with ILUMA’s SMARTCORE INDUCTION SYSTEM, and the result is that IQOS ILUMA provides cigarette-like satisfaction.*


* Based on clinical studies, aerosol chemistry and declaration of satisfaction level from 600 adult consumers in Japan, 2022


There are benefits to enjoy when it comes to the IQOS heated tobacco range, for any adult smoker who would otherwise continue to smoke. For any adult smoker considering a switch from cigarettes, it is worth paying attention to the crucial differences in heated tobacco versus cigarettes. Overall, heated tobacco is potentially a better option than continued cigarette smoking. However, it is important to note that these products are not risk-free and provide nicotine, which is addictive. For those with more questions about IQOS products, follow the link to our FAQ page where we answer the most popular queries.


This article is for general information and educational purposes. Some of the information in this article is based on external, third-party sources and we make no representations or warranties of any kind regarding the accuracy, validity or completeness of such information.

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This product is not risk-free and delivers nicotine, which is addictive. For adult use only.​