Introducing: All you need to know about HNB (Heat-not-Burn)

IQOS is the most familiar brand when we mention HNB. In fact, the history of HNB can go back to 1988. The market accepted this product until the mass-produced IQOS appeared in 2014.

Now let’s see the 4 milestone moments for HNB tobacco:

  1. The first commercial HNB product:

Premier, was launched by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Now is a subsidiary of British American Tobacco) in 1988.

This brand quickly failed due to its inconvenient operation and poor taste.

Premier RJR

Premier RJR

  1. The improved concept of Heat:

Eclipse, was launched by RJR in 1995.

This brand was discontinued in 2015, but it didn’t gain success as well. The big draw resistance and odor problems made this product still unqualified.

Eclipse RJR

Eclipse RJR

  1. The first electrical heating tobacco:

Accord, was launched by PMI in 1998.

Accord was in sale until 2006. Its superseded brand Heatbar was still not successful.

Accord PMI

Accord PMI

  1. The real success HNB brand so far:

IQOS, was first launched in Nagoya Japan and Milan Italy by PMI in 2014.

IQOS means I quit ordinary smoking.

In 2022, IQOS HeatSticks accounted for 15% of PMI’s annual sales (including traditional cigarettes). And the year-on-year growth was 1.7%.



In the second part, I will introduce the hardware for HNB.

Most HNB devices are similar in hardware. Taking IQOS as an example, let’s illustrate the device from blew 3 points:

  1. Appearance

IQOS 2.2-2.4+: Hasp switch cover, Plastic texture

IQOS 3: Side opening, Metal texture

IQOS 3 MULTI: Top knob opening, Metal texture

IQOS ILUMA PRIME: Leather flip

  1. Battery

IQOS 2.2-2.4+: Plug to charge, 4min10s charging time, endurance 1 stick

IQOS 3+: Magnetic charging, 3min30s-1min50s charging time, endurance 10-20 sticks

  1. Other Features

Vibrator, gesture control, and so on.

IQOS Series

IQOS Series

Part 3, Heating System

The most common system is Electric Heating, which produces little environmental smoke and lower harmful substances.

The electric heating system has been updated from resistance heating to electromagnetic heating. It brings finer temperature control ability and higher heating efficiency.

Electric Heating HNB

Electric Heating HNB

Part 4, HNB Cigarette Structure

Keywords: tobacco sheet, tobacco flavors, fragrances, tipping paper.

HNB Cigarette diagram

HNB Cigarette diagram


  • a reconstituted tobacco
  • b Hollow hard PLA/paper tube
  • c PVA Embossing Convergence Forming
  • d Propylene/PLA filter tip

Principle of smoke formation

Traditional cigarettes: Burning oxidation and tobacco heat distillation

HNB: Evaporation and distillation

Tobacco sheet making:

There are 3 methods to make reconstituted tobacco sheets: papermaking, thick pulp, and rolling method. The thick pulp method is the most used, including IQOS and Huabao reconstitute tobacco by this method.

Reconstituted Tobacco Sheets

Reconstituted Tobacco Sheets

IQOS HeatStick

IQOS HeatStick

HNB tobacco flavors:

Definition of tobacco flavors: Flavor ingredients, such as cocoa, sugars, and menthol, give cigarettes a unique taste. Aromatic materials are added to tobacco to balance the natural tobacco taste and to give brands their characteristic flavor and aroma.

The quality of flavoring directly determines the aroma style and taste of the whole cigarette.

The HNB core material is 100% made of sheets, and the aroma mainly comes from the thermal distillation of the sheets and the slurry on the flakes. Therefore, the ability to adjust flavors plays a vital role in HNB products.

The ability to blend flavors depends on the perfumer’s grasp of the taste of the public, the understanding of flavors, and the stable supply of flavoring materials, especially since the demand for understanding the flavors of tobacco flavors have greatly increased (traditional tobacco flavors mainly come from shredded tobacco).

In China, most competitors of HNB are the original players in the China Tobacco supply chain. Companies in the supply chain include manufacturers of tobacco flavors, cigarette marks, tipping papers, and cigarette papers. For instance, Jinjia Group and China Boton Group supply tobacco flavors to China Tobacco HNB, and Sichuan Jinfeng Paper supplies paper materials for cigarettes.

Up to the end of the first quarter of 2023, the total number of IQOS users is estimated to be approximately 25.8 million (an increase of 900,000 compared to December 2022), of which approximately 18.5 million have switched to IQOS and quit smoking.

We can ignore this trend in the tobacco industry. This article is an introduction for newcomers. Contact us if you have any questions.

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