Intelligent reflecting surfaces (IRS) have been proposed as a revolutionary technology owing to its capability of adaptively reconfiguring the propagation environment in a cost-effective and hardware-efficient fashion. While the application of IRS as a passive reflector to enhance the performance of wireless communications has been widely investigated in the literature, using IRS as a passive transmitter recently is emerging as a new concept and attracting steadily growing interest. In this paper, we propose two novel IRS-based passive information transmission systems using advanced symbol-level precoding. One is a standalone passive information transmission system, where the IRS operates as a passive transmitter serving multiple receivers by adjusting its elements to reflect unmodulated carrier signals. The other is a joint passive reflection and information transmission system, where the IRS not only enhances transmissions for multiple primary information receivers (PIRs) by passive reflection, but also simultaneously delivers additional information to a secondary information receiver (SIR) by embedding its information into the primary signals at the symbol level. Two typical optimization problems, i.e., power minimization and quality-of-service (QoS) balancing, are investigated for the proposed IRS-based passive information transmission systems. Simulation results demonstrate the feasibility of IRS-based passive information transmission and the effectiveness of our proposed algorithms, as compared to other benchmark schemes.