The IQOS 3 Duo review in a sentence: it's about as near as a vape-style product has got to a real cigarette, to date. If you’ve dipped into our guide to Everything you need to know about vaping, you’ll have noticed that not all vaporisers are the same. While it’s true that the vast majority of models heat a liquid nicotine suspension called e-liquid in order to create a vapour which is then inhaled, tobacco giant Philip Morris has gone down a completely different road and developed a system for smokers to use its tobacco products in a ‘safer’ way, or at least without the dangerous tar that’s associated with real cigarettes.
They call it the IQOS 3 Duo (opens in new tab), it's undoubtedly one of the best vapes – okay, best 'heated tobacco products' you can buy, and it might just be the nicotine delivery solution you’ve been looking for.
IQOS 3 Duo review: what is it?
The IQOS 3 Duo is a portable pocket-sized vaping device that replicates the act of smoking more authentically than any e-liquid vaporiser. In a nutshell, the IQOS doesn’t burn tobacco at 800˚C like a normal cigarette. Instead it heats it to around 350˚C. This means that some of the most dangerous byproducts like tar and carbon monoxide are vastly reduced if not eradicated.
The IQOS system uses real tobacco compressed into what looks like a miniature cigarette, replete with filter tip. Some people call them tobacco sticks but Philip Morris has opted for the name HEETS, in capital letters, no less.
The IQOS 3 Duo is composed of two parts – a battery-powered USB charging device and an elegant pen-shaped holder for the tobacco stick. Simply push the stick – filter up – into the top of the holder until it stops, press the activation button on the holder and a small, flat element below will begin to heat the compressed tobacco to 350˚C. Now wait until you feel a vibration in the holder and start puffing as you would on a normal cigarette.
You should get about 15 puffs or six minutes out of each HEETS stick before the heating element turns off and the unit emits a warning buzz. At this stage, simply remove the spent stick and drop the holder into the charger and its own internal battery will be topped up in about four minutes, in readiness for the next smoking session. You should get around 20 smoking sessions out of each full top up of the charging device. The IQOS 3 Duo does require regular cleaning to keep it functioning correctly so use the supplied cleaning buds after every 10 puffing sessions.
The IQOS 3 Duo’s charger is 11.5cm in length and 4.5cm in width, making it perfectly pocketable, even in a pair of tight Levis. The 9cm x 1.5cm holder, meanwhile, is wonderfully discreet and, like the charging unit, it’s coated in a silky Nextel-type finish that feels great in the hand.
The IQOS 3 Duo Kit retails at £49 and is available in three colours – white, electric blue and dark grey – and both the charging unit and the holder can be customised with a range of different coloured body shells.
IQOS 3 Duo review: what’s it like to use?
IQOS HEETS replicate the experience of cigarette smoking exceptionally well. Although they produce less vapour than an e-liquid model, you can actually see ‘smoke’ coming out of the mouth as you exhale. Crucially, the taste is pretty close to a proper cigarette, too, and you get a decent amount grip in the throat. Granted, the smell is a bit like burnt toast and some HEETS flavours are dry and harsh on the throat, but in the main I’m impressed enough with the system to continue using it. Another point in its favour is that the system can’t leak like most e-liquid vaporisers seem to do. Oh, and HEETS don’t make your clothes smell like an ashtray because the vapour quickly evaporates, leaving only a faint odour which soon dissipates.
If you wish to continue smoking but want to give up cigarettes, I’d say this system is an excellent alternative. However, I wouldn’t advise using it if you’ve never smoked before because the jury’s still out on how much safer the system is than regular cigarettes.
IQOS 3 Duo review: is it safe?
According to independent research carried out on behalf of Philip Morris, the IQOS system reduces the harm and risk of tobacco smoking. However, the US Food and Drug Administration declared that this claim could not be made in US advertising, although it did agree that ‘heat-not-burn’ cigarettes reduce a smoker’s exposure to carbon monoxide and tar. I spent a long time digesting a wide range of online theses and I’m still none the wiser.
IQOS 3 Duo review: all about HEETS
HEETS retail at around £5 for a pack of 20 (about a third of the price of a packet of cigarettes) and are available in eight tobacco flavours: Amber, Yellow, Teak, Sienna, Russet, Turquoise, Sienna Caps and Blue. Amber is the nearest to a red Marlboro cigarette and has the most agreeable taste and smell while Yellow and Sienna have a stronger hit and a more intense flavour. I haven’t tried Russet but it’s said to offer ‘a rich toasted tobacco blend with malty aromas and bold taste’. If you prefer menthol flavours, then opt for Turquoise, Sienna Caps or Blue. They are all quite similar to a packet of the now discontinued Marlboro Green cigarette.
HEETS are available direct from IQOS, selected vape websites and some major supermarkets. Be mindful that if you buy direct from IQOS you will have no choice but to purchase 10 packs at a time, amounting to a substantial outlay of £50 a hit. Ouch.
IQOS 3 Duo review: verdict
Although the IQOS 3 Duo emulates both the taste and experience of smoking real cigarettes better than any other type of vaporiser on the market, some users may find that HEETS still don’t taste as good as a real cigarette. And that’s a difficult thing to equate because, in the pantheon of things that have a taste, cigarettes to most people are at the bottom of the list, just below Stop’nGrow and other nail-biting deterrents. Nevertheless, if you simply can’t kick the habit and don’t fancy the idea of using an e-liquid vaporiser or nicotine patch, the IQOS 3 Duo could just be what the doctor didn’t order.