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Cigarettes, and more recently vapes, have been long-standing health issues on the global stage. They’re both harmful to the body and cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular disease.

In Malaysia alone, it’s estimated that 20,000 deaths each year are attributed to smoking. 

But quitting can be easier said than done. In most cases, people continue smoking because they’ve become addicted to the nicotine found in cigarettes and vapes. And according to the University College of San Francisco, nicotine is proven to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin.

Understanding the struggles himself, ex-smoker Izzat Ishak decided to launch WooS, an aromatherapy inhaler to help people quit smoking or vaping. 

We know, it sounds a little too good to be true, but hear him out.

It’s not to replace one addiction with another

Image Credit: WooS

For context, an aromatherapy inhaler is just what it sounds like—a device containing essential oils that you inhale. Not through your nose, but your mouth. It’s similar to a vape, but less harmful.

You might be thinking, “Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose it serves, which is to quit smoking?” That’s the same concern we had too. 

But Izzat explained that WooS essential oil inhalers are designed to provide a natural and alternative method to help people wean off smoking and vaping. “The aim is to help individuals gradually reduce their cravings and dependency on nicotine, not replace one addiction with another.”

Made using “100% pure essential oils”, it doesn’t contain nicotine. “Instead, they rely on the aromatherapeutic effects of essential oils to address the psychological and sensory aspects of addiction,” he said.

So far, it also seems that there aren’t any scientific studies that claim aromatherapy inhalers are bad for health. Though this could be due to aromatherapy inhalers being a relatively newer concept. 

A sustainable and long-lasting alternative

Image Credit: WooS

They crafted the WooS inhaler as a sustainable and long-lasting alternative to disposable ones in the market. Customers can opt for the Wood Inhaler (RM99) or the Steel Inhaler (RM109).

It’s designed to be a one-time purchase item, where users just need to periodically change the cotton wick which holds the essential oils. 

As customers progress in their journey to quit smoking, Izzat explained that the frequency of cotton wicks repurchases should reduce. On average, one wick lasts up to three days. Each pack of cotton wicks comes in fives (RM25 to RM30) and in a range of flavours, which allows use for up to 15 days.

To encourage commitment, WooS provides a habit tracker as part of its 30-day challenge. This enables customers to monitor their progress. 

In the couple’s experience, it typically takes WooS users about one to four months to completely stop smoking or vaping. But that’s dependent on the individual as well. 

Image Credit: WooS

A struggle he’s personally faced as well

Speaking openly, Izzat shared that he used WooS himself to overcome his smoking addiction.

“For nearly two decades, I lived a double life as a smoker and vaper, expertly hiding it from my wife (and co-founder), Munirah, while working in the construction industry. Everything changed the day she discovered my hidden stash and confronted me about it.” 

Given Munirah’s then-profession as a doctor, she always held strong values against those habits. Which made the discovery even more of a wake-up call for Izzat to quit smoking.

He began with a gradual approach, cutting down his daily cigarette intake. Some methods he tried were nicotine gum and patches, which was recommended by the National Heart Institute’s Quit Smoking Clinic

Image Credit: WooS

“But the intense stress of my job kept pulling me back to smoking,” he confessed. It was only after he was hospitalised for other health issues that he knew something had to change. “My recovery was complicated and slow, exacerbated by my long-term smoking habit.” 

This experience, coupled with Munirah’s support, gave him the extra push he needed to find a solution.

If we have nasal inhalers, why not oral ones?

After contemplating the ways he could overcome this addiction, an idea struck. 

“If inhalation, whether through the nose or mouth, ultimately reaches the lungs, why not develop an alternative that mimics smoking but is beneficial?” 

They took inspiration from the widely-recognised Vicks inhaler that’s used to alleviate symptoms of runny or blocked noses. Although aromatherapy inhalers have been in the market, they mostly focused on nasal inhalation.

Image Credit: WooS

With his wife, they figured they could create one for oral inhalation. This led them to deep-dive into research papers and academic journals. 

“We discovered several research papers and academic journals highlighting how essential oils could effectively reduce nicotine cravings,” he stated.

Thus, the idea for WooS was conceived.

Not their first foray in the world of aromatherapy

Before their journey with WooS, Izzat and Munirah had already been using essential oils. Initially, it was to help their children sleep better, but they noticed that it also improved the family’s well-being.

So they began sharing the benefits with close family and friends. This led to the establishment of their own essential oils business called “OilyPod”. The brand focuses on offering pure and unique blends of essential oils, and the couple still run it alongside WooS.

Image Credit: OilyPod

Despite their background in aromatherapy, they still spent two years on R&D to refine their first WooS inhaler. “It was crucial to ensure that our final product not only met our high standards for efficacy and safety, but also provided a satisfactory experience for the user,” Izzat explained.

Seeking approval from consumers & medical bodies

Understandably, people were quite sceptical when WooS first launched. But Izzat shared that after about two months, WooS sold out all 1,000 initial products within a few weeks.

Image Credit: WooS

Some of their customers have shared a significant decrease in the urge to smoke, while others felt its absence completely. “Notably, some have even developed an aversion to the smell of smoke after using WooS.”

As more reviews and testimonies came in, WooS expanded into neighbouring markets like Singapore and Brunei. 

The founders even shared that they’re in the process of seeking an endorsement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) for WooS as a tool for smoking and vaping cessation. 

“However, as aromatherapy is not yet widely recognised by the MOH in this specific context, the process is more time-consuming than initially expected,” he said. “Our commitment to achieving this endorsement is part of our dedication to ensuring the highest standards of health safety for our customers.”

All that said, as the brand’s primary goal is to help people quit smoking and vaping, Izzat acknowledged that WooS could eventually go out of business should they accomplish that goal.

But when that day comes, they’re not too worried as they still have OilyPod to fall back on.

  • Learn more about WooS here
  • Read articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: WooS

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© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)