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Special Tobacco Control Journal Supplement Highlights Dangers of Heated Tobacco Products

Claims by the tobacco industry that heated tobacco products (HTPs) are safer than conventional cigarettes are not supported by the industry’s own data and are likely to be misunderstood by consumers, according to research published in a special issue of Tobacco Control.  The issue was assembled by Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. 

HTPs are promoted by the tobacco industry as less harmful than cigarettes because they heat tobacco rather than burn it to generate the aerosol that delivers nicotine to users’ lungs. The industry argument is that because HTPs do not set the tobacco on fire, they release lower levels of harmful chemicals and so cause less disease than conventional cigarettes.

The papers, published October 23, 2018, represent the first comprehensive collection of industry-independent peer-reviewed analyses of HTPs.  TRDRP grantees Gideon St. Helen and Matthew Springer contributed to the issue.

Gideon St. Helen, PhD, reviewed Phillip Morris International’s (PMI) publicly available data comparing levels of 113 chemical constituents found in smoke from IQOS and conventional cigarettes. They found that 56 constituents were higher in smoke from IQOS, 22 were at least 200 percent higher and seven were at least a thousand percent higher. The potential harm that could be caused by these substances is unknown.

Matthew Springer, PhD, led a team which showed that in rats, a single IQOS tobacco stick impaired the ability of arteries to become larger in response to increased blood flow to the same extent as smoke from a conventional cigarette. In addition, the team found that nicotine levels were about 4.5 times higher in rats after exposure to IQOS compared with cigarettes.  This technique of measuring artery dilation in response to increased blood flow, called flow-mediated dilation (FMD), is a validated measure of cardiovascular health effects. Dr. Springer’s study demonstrates that that impaired FMD is not limited to smoke from combustion and suggests that inhalation of other non-combustible tobacco products has similar cardiovascular consequences.
iQOS device in the foreground surrounded by heat sticks which resemble cigarettes