Philip Morris' TEEPS – The Latest Un-Cigarette
If you've found your way here to Breazy, we're going to assume you're familiar with liquid-based vapor products – whether they're refillable "open" systems or "closed" versions that use pre-filled pods, bulky advanced personal vaporizers (box mods) or simple devices not much bigger than a cigarette (cigalikes), all of our current offerings have one thing in common – they use a metal heating element to raise the temperature of a specially-formulated liquid that may or may not contain nicotine (which itself may or may not be derived from a tobacco plant) to create an aerosol or vapor.
For years, liquid-based vapor products have been the primary vehicle for tobacco users looking to quit a smoking habit but retain the sensation of inhaling and exhaling a reduced-risk smoke alternative. While anecdotally more effective than pharmaceutical products that also support smoking cessation efforts (some scientific evidence is beginning to back these claims), traditional vaping hasn't been entirely effective, as some smokers say it just doesn't provide a sensation close enough to replicate smoking to convince them to quit.
Big Tobacco companies, fearing a loss in market share as more and more people quit smoking, have been moving into vaping for years. While conventional liquid-based vapor products are a part of nearly every tobacco company's product line, some have been exploring more unique alternatives that allow users to continue using tobacco without burning it.
Philip Morris, the global purveyor of the biggest cigarette brands and others outside the US, has been perhaps the most innovative in developing tobacco products that fall somewhere between vapor devices and combustible cigarettes. The iQOS, which places cigarettes doused with propylene glycol (an ingredient in e-liquid) it calls "HEETS" in a capsule that's then heated to a point at which the PG-tobacco blend is vaporized, but not to the point that the tobacco actually begins to burn, is already available on global markets. Such "heat-not-burn" technology Philip Morris is pursuing also includes products like STEEM, which combines nicotine and organic acid to create nicotine salts that are inhaled but do not produce vapor.
Another offering that's been in the works since at least 2016 but appears close to making its debut is TEEPS, which are probably the closest thing to actual cigarettes you'll find in a non-combustible form. Unlike even the heat-not-burn systems that use electrical power to heat tobacco, TEEPS still involve pulling a cigarette out of a pack and lighting it on fire.
Wait, what? Yes – the catch is that what you're lighting is a carbon plug at the tip of the cigarette, which is supposed to heat a special tobacco plug inside the cigarette's tube while ensuring it doesn't reach the point of actually burning. When you're done, you'll still have to stub out and dispose of the entire cigarette (Philip Morris' term here is "tobacco stick"), just like you would a combustible butt, but the whole thing will still be there because nothing will have combusted.
Those who've been toying with the idea of reduced-harm tobacco for a long time may remember Eclipse cigarettes, widely publicized by RJ Reynolds in the early 2000s – these are essentially the same thing – light a carbon plug on fire and it vaporizes tobacco in the cigarette. At the time interest was low, and the product was eventually deemed a flop – about the only place they're still found is around the RJR campus, as they're the only type of cigarettes the company allows its employees to smoke indoors.
Philip Morris is betting the time may be right to re-launch the idea of vaporizing an actual cigarette – now that liquid vaping has brought the idea mainstream, millions of smokers who know they've got a nasty habit but never imagined they'd quit are at least considering less-harmful alternatives. And for those who've tried vaping but didn't take to it, or who don't want to fuss with newfangled technology, TEEPS could fill a niche.
As a bonus, the theory of a non-combustible tobacco cigarette existed prior to the federal Food and Drug Administration's "predicate date," after which all new products that weren't already on-market before new tobacco and vapor deeming regulations took effect will have to obtain government approval before launching. This means that using the Eclipse as a predecessor product, Philip Morris may be able to bring TEEPS to market in the United States while their iQOS remains shelved due to an ongoing approval battle with the FDA.
Will TEEPS appeal to committed vapers who've successfully quit using all products that contain actual tobacco? Probably not. Still, there's a promising market for smokers who absolutely refuse to quit but still might benefit from an option somewhere between vaping and smoking, and that choice might be coming back to the mainstream market soon. We'll be sure to keep you posted if and when it does!