Cigarettes' high-tech makeover hasn't stopped with vaping's souped-up mods and flavored liquid nicotine. There's a new sort of quasi e-cig that's electronically heated, but still contains tobacco. And soon, it could be internet-enabled too.
A patent recently filed by Philip Morris (maker of Marlboro) and unearthed today by the Atlantic details a "smart" e-cig that connects to your computer, wirelessly or with USB, to track and monitor your every drag (or even trigger the device to light up).
The point—at least part of it—is to help users quit by being the willpower you can't muster for yourself, using the data to shame you into changing your behavior, not unlike a fitness tracker. The patent also mentions a fascinating pay-per-puff feature that would work like your own self-imposed sin tax, or let you preset a consumption cap at a certain number of credits or drags.
That's not an entirely new concept: Smokio, which claims to be the first connected cig, also monitors your vaping habit and even tells you how much time you've tacked onto your life by ditching the pack for (theoretically) healthier vaporized nicotine.
But what's really interesting here is that Philip Morris' patented "Electronically Heated Smoking System" isn't exactly a vape pen, but closer to its "reduced risk" hybrid e-tobacco product, iQOS, announced this summer and set to go on sale overseas later this year.
Powered by USB, iQOS contains tobacco but heats it just enough so you can taste it, stopping short of actual combustion and thus, the theory goes, avoiding the dangerous carcinogens inhaled through burning tobacco in regular combustible cigarettes.
Now, considering how controversial vaping with no tobacco is already, this new experiment is bound to face a long, heated, uphill battle before accepted as a healthy alternate to traditional butts. But the megacorp is betting big that the "HeatStick" will be much more compelling to former smokers than vaping, since it more closely resembles a regular ol' pack of smokes.
And judging by this latest patent, Philip Morris could have plenty of data to test that bet. Cigarettes' entrance into the internet of things will help companies gather valuable data on consumer habits, tracking internet-connected nicotine addicts everywhere, and most likely selling new targeted products off that data.
As the Atlantic points out, using smart objects leaves your personal activity open to be hacked, tracked, sold, or studied—just like the data pouring in from fitness trackers and health apps. Only this vice will be in the hands of a big tobacco firm, which is pulling out all the stops to innovate its deadly flagship product before it goes out of existence. [Atlantic - WSJ]
Top image: Concept drawing from Philip Morris patent