Vaping vs. iQOS: What You Need to Know

difference between vaping and iqos

In 2019, the heat-not-burn tobacco smoking system from Philip Morris – iQOS – received approval from the FDA to be sold legally in American stores. The iQOS system presents an interesting alternative to combustible tobacco for American smokers, and many smokers will undoubtedly try it. Philip Morris has been working on heat-not-burn smoking systems for decades, and with the iQOS system, it seems like they’ve finally developed something that people actually enjoy using.

Having options is a good thing, and if you’re an American smoker, you now have two viable alternatives to combustible tobacco. You have the iQOS system on one side, and you have vaping systems from vape shops like Vape Juice on the other side. Although iQOS is comparable to vaping in some ways, it definitely is not vaping – so you should understand the differences between the two before you decide what to buy. In this article, we’ll compare vaping vs. iQOS to help you make an informed purchase.

How Vaping Works

When you vape, you get your nicotine from a liquid called e-liquid. E-liquid contains vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol – to form the clouds that you see when you exhale – along with nicotine and flavors. When you vape, a heating coil in your e-cigarette vaporizes the e-liquid. You inhale the vapor, and your lungs absorb the nicotine. Vaping looks and feels much like smoking, but it involves no tobacco at all.

Benefits of Vaping

Better Flavor

Here’s a little secret about cigarettes: You hate them. Oh, you might think you enjoy the flavor of tobacco, but that’s only because you can’t remember those first few puffs that you choked down so long ago because you wanted to be cool, or you wanted to be rebellious, or whatever the reason was. Invariably, everyone who makes the switch to vaping has a moment of weakness and buys a pack of cigarettes. They taste one puff and realize that they have no idea why they ever enjoyed smoking to begin with, and that’s the moment at which their conversion to vaping is complete. Vaping tastes better than smoking in every way, and it also tastes better than iQOS. E-liquid companies use standard food-grade flavorings to make their products, and that means an e-liquid can taste like almost anything ranging from candy, to pink lemonade, to jelly doughnuts. You really will end up wondering how you ever managed to convince yourself that you enjoyed tobacco.

Finer Control Over Nicotine Intake

Vaping gives you incredibly fine control over the amount of nicotine you consume. Pre-filled e-cigarette pods and cartridges – and bottled e-liquid – come in an enormous variety of nicotine strengths ranging from 50 mg/ml all the way down to no nicotine at all. Many people use vaping as a way of weaning themselves off of nicotine gradually. The iQOS system doesn’t work in the same way; it’s designed to deliver nicotine almost as efficiently as cigarettes. With iQOS, there’s no option for reducing your nicotine consumption apart from simply smoking less often.

Less Expensive

Make no mistake about the iQOS system; the government considers those heatsticks to be the same thing as cigarettes, and they’ll be taxed the same. You will not save money on vaping to quit smoking if you switch to iQOS. Vaping products, on the other hand, aren’t taxed the same as cigarettes in most regions. Most government bodies recognize that giving smokers affordable access to a reduced-harm option saves millions upon millions of dollars in healthcare expenses later.

Nicotine Without Tobacco

Arguably the most important benefit of vaping – and the benefit that has some healthcare experts saying that vaping could be up to 95 percent less harmful than smoking – is the fact that it delivers nicotine without tobacco. Although the safest option is not to use nicotine at all, vaping rather than using tobacco means that you’re avoiding tar, carbon monoxide and thousands of other undesirable compounds present in tobacco smoke. The undesirable compounds in tobacco smoke are also present in the iQOS – just at lower concentrations.

How iQOS Works

The iQOS system is essentially a portable battery-powered tobacco heater. The tobacco sticks that you smoke are called heat sticks, and they look essentially like short cigarettes. A plug of tobacco is at one end of the heat stick, and a filter is on the other end. The tobacco is impregnated with propylene glycol, and that’s what creates the “smoke” you see when you exhale. When you insert the heat stick into the iQOS holder, a metal blade pierces through the tobacco. The blade heats the tobacco when you puff, generating a cloud of vapor. After several puffs, vapor production will stop. You’ll remove the heat stick from the iQOS holder and throw it away.

Benefits of iQOS

Real Tobacco Flavor

Although the benefits of vaping far outnumber those of iQOS, the heat-not-burn system from Philip Morris does have two interesting benefits that vaping lacks. You should know about those benefits before making your decision. The first benefit – at least in terms of flavor – is that the iQOS system is an actual tobacco product. Heat sticks for the iQOS system are sold under the Marlboro brand, and the chemists at Philip Morris have undoubtedly worked hard to make iQOS taste as much like an actual Marlboro as possible. No, you’re probably not going to mistake iQOS for a combustible cigarette – but it will taste like tobacco, and that’s one of the few flavors an e-cigarette can’t really mimic.


The second benefit of iQOS is that the heat sticks are self-limiting in the same way that cigarettes are. Each heat stick is a self-contained smoking session with a beginning, a middle and an end. When you buy a pack of heat sticks, you know how many sessions you have in the pack and can space them out accordingly. A vaping device, on the other hand, doesn’t limit itself in the same way. A full tank or pod holds enough e-liquid for many vaping sessions. It’s always available. Some people have trouble limiting their own usage and end up vaping almost constantly. For those people, vaping isn’t exactly conducive to nicotine reduction.


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