In the West, vaping has the high ground as a tobacco alternative. However, the market for nicotine-based products remains highly contested at the global level. Despite the multitude of scientific studies on the potential health benefits of switching to vaping, it remains forbidden in a number of countries. This is the case in Japan, where the sale and usage of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine is illegal.
However, Japan maintains a strong interest in alternatives to smoking tobacco, given heat-not-burn devices are proving highly popular. One in particular, the IQOS by Philip Morris International, comes in first place opposite its main competitors, Ploom and Glo.
While e-cigarettes were preferred in Japan until 2015, a talk-show aired that year changed public opinion dramatically. On April 28th, 2016, the « Ame Talk” dedicated an hour-long episode to the IQOS. The show went on to give a glowing review the HNB device and its advantages. From that point onwards, search engines recorded a spike in searches dedicated to the device, overtaking searches for e-cigs by a wide margin.
IQOS, Japan’s favourite alternative to traditional cigarettes
A number of scientific studies between 2015 and 2017 focused on the Nipponese interest for alternatives to vaping. They focused on Internet search statistics in particular. While in 2015, Japanese internet-users seemed more interested in e-cigs than HNB devices, it is quite likely that the airing of the talk-show changed the game.
Indeed, in 2017, the trend reversed entirely. Now, IQOS in particular have become the leading search terms for heat-not-burn devices. E-cigs as a whole fell beneath IQOS levels in terms of online searches. Currently, 18.8% of smokers in Japan looking to quit entirely declared ready to turn to IQOS.
With the dangers of tobacco smoke now clear to all, these new alternatives, whether they be HNB or vaping devices, show great promise. With this in mind, however, second-hand smoke issues are beginning to surface with the use of HNB tobacco. While IQOS benefited from excellent television coverage with the talk-show, it is important to remember that it is a different technology to vaping. There is little long-term knowledge on this new device and associated risks. And this may be worrying given the results of recent studies.