Heat-Not-Burn Across the Globe: Canada
Welcome to the first installment of our 3-part Heat-Not-Burn series! In this series, we are going to be looking at HnB in Canada, Bulgaria, and Japan! First stop, Canada!
Is Heat-Not-Burn Popular in Canada?
There is a market for HnB in Canada, but it’s small
Heat180 was born in Canada. Most of our team is based in Ontario, not too far from Toronto. George, who you see on our YouTube channel, was the first member of our team to become interested in HnB, however he didn’t hear about it in Canada. He learned about it when in Japan on business. As for the rest of us here at Heat180, we had never heard about it until George introduced it to us.
Now HnB products are not completely invisible in Canada; we have IQOS stores in most major cities, GLO has a Canadian website and customer service phone line, and, of course, you can ship other devices to Canada, but outside of established HnB users, hardcore tobacco enthusiasts, and industry insiders, HnB is not that popular. Personally, I have only ever seen one person using an HnB device (it was IQOS) in public. In big cities like Toronto, you still see most people using traditional cigarettes and/or vapes.
Why is that? George discusses that a bit in the video below.
The Heat180 team has theorized as to why HnB hasn’t really been able to take off here in Canada.
- Not many people understand HnB – What is HnB? Or, more specifically, what is it classified as? HnB is still in that weird grey area. Is it an electronic cigarette/ electronic nicotine delivery system? Is it a cigarette? Governments, not just in Canada, but throughout North America, seem to have a hard time defining what it is. Since they don’t understand HnB, they don’t really approach it the right way.
- Government restrictions – While HnB is easier to get here in Canada than say in the US, where the FDA has just recently approved IQOS for sale, HnB still faces government restrictions. One of the major issues is that in Canada tobacco products and vape products are classified separately under legislation and therefore have to be sold separately. That means that you cannot sell tobacco products (e.g. cigarettes, cigars, etc.) in a vape shop, and you cannot sell electronic products (e.g. mods, e-juice, etc.) in a tobacco shop or in places where the government has permitted tobacco sales (e.g. convenience stores). This is where it gets real unfortunate. HnB is classified as both a tobacco product and an electronic product. HeatSticks are considered tobacco, the devices are considered electronics. That means that neither vape shops nor tobacconists can carry and sell full HnB kits. Now, IQOS is the one exception, If you go to an IQOS store in Canada, you can buy a full kit. But like we said, IQOS stores are in major cities. If you don’t live in a major city, too bad for you.
- Poor promotion of HnB (Retailers) – Due to all these restrictions, most vape stores and tobacconists are simply not stocking HnB products. The few stores we’ve visited that do stock them, told us that they don’t really promote them as not many people are interested in the selection available. The people who do buy them, have usually visited other countries where HnB is more popular, and so they already know what they want.
- Poor promotion of HnB (Manufacturers) – In addition, it’s hard to impress new users with HnB products in Canada as the products offered in Canada are not as good as those you find internationally. HeatStick flavor options are especially poor. For IQOS, only the HEETS line is sold in Canada. While the line has been recently expanded, the flavors are not exciting, and to some people, unappealing in taste. Even GLO’s flavors are not as good as those elsewhere. As you know there’s alot of kickback in North America about the flavors offered for nicotine products, so we fear that this might be why unique flavors, like the Tropical Menthol in Japan or Purple in Russia and Ukraine, are not available.
- Not many people know about it – Because HnB is not promoted properly, it doesn’t generate alot of interest in the market. It’s sad since there are still alot of people in Canada who could benefit from this kind of harm reduction device.
The result of all this is that HnB is just not that popular in Canada. It is a bit more visible in the big cities, but even then you wouldn’t be able to say that it’s prominent by any means. How sad.
IQOS in Canada
The only brand that seems to have at least a bit of a foothold in Canada is IQOS. If any HnB manufacturer is going to come out on top of the Canadian market, it will be IQOS, no doubt. They are the only manufacturer that has actual retail locations. It is also the only HnB brand we’ve ever found in tobacco and/or vape shops.
We wanted to give you a realistic idea of what using IQOS in Canada is like, so we headed to Toronto, Ontario, to visit an IQOS store.
The store itself is pretty low-key from street view. If you don’t already know what Q-Lab is, you’ll probably not even notice it. This is, once again, due to government regulations that bar the manufacturer from putting the product name, ‘IQOS,’ on the building, as that is considered to be a form of advertisement. *eye roll* Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures inside so we’ll try and describe the layout as best we can. When you first walk into the store you’ll see display cases with IQOS products in them. They are both stand-alone cases and cases on the walls. There’s a small partition, that gives a bit more privacy to a little bar area. At the bar (kinda reminded me of the genius bar at Apple stores) you can sit with an IQOS rep to discuss the best options for you or this is where you will go if you are having technical difficulties and the rep needs to examine your device. Furthur back in the store there is a coffee area (they will offer you a complimentary coffee, tea, or water) and a cash register, as well as the door that leads to the room.
As for the experience, when you enter the store, you will have to show your I.D. if you look younger than 18 years of age. Once your age is verified, they will ask you what brought you in and direct you to the best part of the store depending on what you’re looking for.
The reps were so friendly, on various occasions! Once we’ve had to visit this store due to a technical issue and they replaced the device (which was past warranty) at no charge! Once we went there to purchase accessories for all 3 IQOS device and they were able to help us find everything we needed, got us the best in-store promotions, and answered all our questions!
There were quite a few other people that came into the store while we were there, so obviously Canadians do use HnB devices, especially IQOS.
We’re glad that manufacturers, Like IQOS, are putting effort into breaking the Canadian market, but, realistically, we just don’t see it happening. There would need to be a big shift in the way HnB is classified, legislated, promoted, and used for it to reach the same level of popularity as other harm reduction methods, like vape.
Now that’s not saying it can’t ever happen. Vape hasn’t been doing well over here lately either, so if it was ever limited within the market, there may be a space for HnB. However, for that to happen, HnB would need to be treated as it’s own category, or else it may just get limited along with vapes.
For now, we’re hoping that someday HnB might be given the attention it deserves. There are still alot of traditional cigarette smokers in Canada, and a large number of them have tried or are actively trying to quit. HnB could be such a good harm reduction option for Canadians.