A Brief History of Heated Tobacco Products

Heated cigarettes are also known as heat not burn cigarettes (herbal heatsticks), low temperature cigarettes, “HNB”. Currently, some multinational tobacco companies are promoting it as the latest cigarette alternative. The category has grown rapidly in recent years, with not only a slew of new products being marketed, but more products undergoing consumer testing and coming to market soon. The goal of heated cigarettes (tobacco heatsticks) is to eliminate most of the harmful substances produced by tobacco combustion while maintaining the smoking experience by maintaining the original flavor of tobacco and releasing nicotine, avoiding other components produced by tobacco combustion.


Multinational tobacco companies believe that many long-term smokers want to try new ways to obtain nicotine, and heated cigarettes (HNB heatsticks supplier)open a new door for consumers. This transition is not sudden, if we look back at the history of the development of heated cigarettes, we can deeply realize this.



Most heated cigarettes incorporate multiple technologies: lithium batteries, microprocessors, energy-efficient heating coils, and more. In fact, just in terms of concept, heated cigarettes are not new. Its basic idea goes back centuries.


A few years ago, hookah became a consumption trend in European and American countries. Almost overnight, hookah bars have sprung up in the streets and alleys, and exquisite hookah equipment has become an inseparable belongings for many young people. Shisha is not a recent innovation. This product appeared in the Middle East as early as the early 16th century. In essence, this appliance uses the concept of heat not burn.


To fill a hookah, a ceramic bowl is stuffed with tobacco, moistened with flavored syrup, and then pressed on a perforated metal sheet or wire mesh to light the charcoal placed on top. The heat of the charcoal heats the tobacco placed under it, and when one inhales, the hot air passes through the metal mesh, past the tobacco and syrup, vaporizing the nicotine and other ingredients.


The problem is that, in addition to the desired aroma, shisha smoke sometimes contains combustion emissions, including carbon monoxide from burning charcoal. If the filling is wrong, or if the charcoal is too hot, the tobacco will ignite. Nonetheless, this method removes many of the tobacco harmful substances. Some anti-smoking advocates say hookahs are just as bad for people as cigarettes, if not worse. Recent studies have shown that hookahs are only 14% as harmful as cigarettes.


Therefore, people have long known that tobacco can be heated and smoked, and this common sense has also attracted the interest of tobacco companies. Since the 1950s, tobacco companies in various countries have been plagued by the health hazards of smoking. By the 1980s, as smoking rates declined, tobacco companies began looking for safer ways to use tobacco in order to retain cigarette consumers. In this process, the development of heated cigarette products has become their breakthrough path.



The Reynolds Tobacco Company of the United States was the first company in the world to launch a heated cigarette product. In 1988, Reynolds Tobacco Company launched the Premier heated cigarette product. This product is essentially a small, disposable hookah. It is a lightweight cigarette-like aluminum tube in the middle, with a filter at one end and a charcoal ball at the other, and inside the aluminum tube is a foil-wrapped tobacco capsule. When the charcoal is ignited, it heats the tobacco, producing smoke for consumers to smoke.


Unfortunately, this product failed. While it’s efficient at delivering nicotine, the taste is unpleasant. Consumers complained about the charcoal aftertaste when smoking the product and also complained about the inconvenience of ignition. Initially, Reynolds Tobacco estimated that after two or three packs of heated cigarettes, consumers would figure out how to properly use the product and get used to its taste, but ultimately it backfired. Most people who try this product buy only one pack, taste one, and distribute the rest to friends around them. The downside of this is that none of their friends will buy themselves another pack of the product.


Premier struggled after going public and withdrew from the U.S. market within a year. Subsequently, Reynolds Tobacco made another attempt in India, this time lasting as long as its attempt in the US market. Although it was unsuccessful, Reynolds Tobacco thought it was a good idea, and 10 years later, an improved version was developed.


In 1996, Reynolds Tobacco’s new product, Eclipse, appeared in boutiques, and in 2003 it was rolled out across the United States. It looks a lot like the Premier, but it’s very different from the Premier: its tobacco filler is moistened with glycerin. This measure improved smoking taste and smoke texture, and although the product could not compensate for the sharp decline in sales of Reynolds Tobacco’s traditional cigarettes, it performed well and is still available in the US market today.



While Reynolds Tobacco was researching heated cigarettes, Philip Morris International was exploring a different technical path. In 1998, Philip Morris launched the heated cigarette product Accord in Richmond, USA for market testing. It’s a compact, battery-operated unit with a built-in heating element, just like a special cigarette.


This product has a multi-layer filter that uses a heat-resistant tube filled with tobacco that looks like a scaled-down version of a regular cigarette. When people put one of them into the Accord, plug the other end with a filter, and take a breath, the heating is activated, which produces smoke.


Accord has many interesting designs. It uses a sensor to check if it’s loaded with products suitable for Accord, and refuses to work if it’s loaded with regular cigarettes. Also, it has a parental lock to prevent children from using it. Despite the use of many innovative designs, the product was unsuccessful and was eventually withdrawn from the market in 2006.


A few months after Accord was delisted, Philip Morris began testing a new product, this time in New Zealand and Australia instead of the US. Like Reynolds Tobacco, Philip Morris felt it had taken the right technology path and just needed improvement. So, they launched an upgraded product – Heatbar. This is also a handheld tobacco device with a breath-activated heating system.


While the above-mentioned products are in fierce competition, some tobacco consumers have privately tried adding tobacco to the formula of vaping cigarettes, and the effect is quite good. This has prompted companies such as Ploom to start investing in heat-not-burn devices that are more sophisticated vaping technology paths.


Many of the heated cigarette products popular in the world today date back at least 20 years. For example, the Revo released by Reynolds Tobacco Company is actually a redefinition of the Eclipse brand. Philip Morris’ iQOS is an upgraded product of the Heatbar. It redesigned the Heatbar to give it a streamlined look.


With the initial success of the above products, other tobacco companies have entered this blue ocean. Japan Tobacco has launched the Ploom series of products through acquisition, British American Tobacco has successively launched two series of iFuse and glo products, and the Imperial brand has also launched the Pulze brand. Even South Korea’s KT&G has launched its own Lil brand heated cigarette products.


It should be said that the concept of heated cigarettes has never been abandoned, especially in the context of many tobacco companies betting on the e-cigarette market, the development of heated cigarettes has received more attention and attention. How will the heated cigarette market develop in the future? Will this category eventually carry the banner of the next generation of tobacco products? These questions have to wait for the market to answer.