Myth-busting smoke-free alternatives: The 15 top questions answered

5 min read

Answers to commonly asked questions about smoke-free alternatives. Learn more about vapes, e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.

Busting common myth

1. Are smoke-free alternatives different to cigarettes?

YES

Smoke-free alternatives don’t burn tobacco, which means that, if they are scientifically substantiated and regulated to an appropriate standard, they are a better alternative to continuing to smoke cigarettes. Importantly, they are not risk free. The best choice is always to quit tobacco and nicotine completely.

2. Are all smoke-free products the same?

NO

There are actually a number of differences – and some similarities – between heat-not-burn devices (also known as heated tobacco products), and e-cigarettes (also known as vapes, e-vapor products, and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems). They are all smoke-free alternatives to continued use of cigarettes. But heat-not-burn products heat real tobacco within a specific temperature range, generally using an electronic heat-control system to prevent it from burning. E-cigarettes, by contrast, usually vaporize a liquid solution containing nicotine and flavors when a user draws on it.

3. Do smoke-free alternatives contain nicotine?

YES

All heated tobacco products that have been commercialized contain nicotine, because it occurs naturally in tobacco. Most vapes and e-cigarettes also contain nicotine. Nicotine is one of the reasons people smoke, along with taste and ritual. In order for adult smokers to fully switch from cigarettes to better alternatives than continued smoking, these products generally need to contain nicotine. See also questions 4 and 8.

4. Is nicotine the main cause of smoking-related diseases? 

NO

Nicotine is not the main cause of smoking-related diseases. These diseases, such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and emphysema, are caused primarily by inhaling harmful compounds formed when tobacco is burned. Nicotine is addictive and not risk free. See also questions 3 and 8.

5. Is vaping addictive? 

YES

Vaping generally involves inhalation of nicotine, which is addictive, and not risk free. Quitting tobacco and nicotine completely is always the best choice. And while quitting can be difficult, millions of people do each year.

6. Heat-not-burn products use tobacco. Aren’t they the same as cigarettes? 

NO

Heat-not-burn products are different from cigarettes. They heat real tobacco within a specific temperature range, usually using an electronic heat-control system, to prevent it from burning. The user inhales a tobacco vapor, not smoke.

When lit, cigarettes burn tobacco at temperatures above 600°C, flaring to more than 800°C when a smoker takes a puff. In the process, they create smoke, ash, tar, and high levels of harmful chemicals.

By eliminating combustion, scientifically substantiated heat-not-burn products, while not risk free, are designed to significantly reduce the levels of harmful chemicals compared to cigarette smoke. See also question 10.

7. Do smoke-free alternatives carry a risk?

YES

Although heat-not-burn products and e-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco, which is the main cause of smoking-related diseases, they are not risk-free. The best choice is always to quit tobacco and nicotine completely.

8. Is nicotine risk-free?

NO

Nicotine is not risk-free and it is addictive. Certain people – including pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with heart disease, severe high blood pressure, or diabetes – should not use tobacco or nicotine-containing products. Minors, in particular, should not have access to nicotine containing products.

9. Are heat-not-burn products and vapes better than continuing to smoke?

YES

While not risk free, when they are scientifically substantiated and regulated to ensure quality and safety, heat-not-burn products are a better choice than continued smoking.

10. Do vapes and heat-not-burn products give off smoke? 

NO

What may appear to be ‘smoke’ emitting from a vape or heat-not-burn product is actually an aerosol, which is a suspension of fine liquid and/or solid particles in a gas (usually air). Heat-not-burn products and vapes do not emit smoke, as they have not burned the tobacco.

Cigarettes burn the tobacco, which creates smoke, which is also an aerosol. However, the composition of the aerosol in smoke is very different to the aerosol emitted by vapes and heat-not-burn products, as smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals and solid particles. 

11. Fewer people are taking up smoking, so do we need less-harmful alternatives?

YES

Through the work of government regulation and public health campaigns, smoking prevalence declined 4.1 percent in the decade between 2005 and 2015, according to the World Health Organization. Yet despite these efforts, millions of people who understand the risks continue to smoke cigarettes. According to WHO estimates, more than one billion people will still be smoking in 2025, roughly the same number as today. Nine out of 10 smokers will continue to smoke in any given year.

Our advice is that if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t quit, change.

12. Do PMI’s heat-not-burn products and e-cigarette create second-hand smoke?

NO

Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), is a combination of the smoke produced from the lit end of a cigarette and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Public health authorities, including the WHO, have concluded that secondhand smoke causes diseases, including lung cancer and heart disease, in non-smokers. However, as our smoke free products do not burn tobacco, tests have shown that PMI’s e-cigarette and heat-not-burn products, are not a source of ETS. Smoke-free products are not risk free though and the best choice is to quit tobacco and nicotine completely. Users of smoke-free products should always remain mindful of using them around other people.

13. Does PMI add synthetic nicotine to its smoke-free products?

NO

In our heat-not-burn products, the nicotine is not added. It is natural component of the tobacco which is heated in our product. No extra nicotine is added.

In our e-cigarettes, the nicotine-forming part is a botanical extract made from tobacco plants which is added to the e-liquid.

14. Is there genuine science behind PMI’s smoke-free alternatives? 

YES

Philip Morris International (PMI) has invested $6 billion in research and development to offer smoke-free alternatives to smokers who won’t otherwise quit nicotine.

PMI has recruited talent from around the world to develop a hub of innovation at its R&D facility in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Since 2008, PMI has published more than 340 publications and book chapters related to its smoke-free products in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It registers all its clinical studies with ClinicalTrials.gov. It also publishes a Scientific Update – a summary of the latest research and developments relating to its smoke-free products.

15. Do PMI’s e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products contain tar?

NO

One of the most harmful elements of cigarette smoke is what many people refer to as “tar”. It is the residue from cigarette smoke after a cigarette is burned, and is more correctly called Nicotine-Free Dry Particulate Matter (NFDPM), as it is measured by the weight of solid and liquid residue in cigarette smoke after the weight of nicotine and water has been subtracted. 

Tar is not present in the aerosol of our e-cigarette or heat-not-burn products. Since our heat-not-burn and e-cigarette products do not burn the tobacco, they do not produce tar. Their aerosol residue is fundamentally different from cigarette tar. Importantly though, this does not mean our smoke free products are risk free.