New Heated Tobacco Products - No smoke no fire?

Written by Charlotta Pisinger on 28 May 2018 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

EU policymakers should know that heated tobacco products are addictive and carcinogenic, argues Professor Charlotta Pisinger

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Heated tobacco is a new nicotine delivery system that is commonly referred to as “Heat-not-Burn” by the tobacco industry. Heated tobacco products consist of a small tobacco stick that is heated electronically, rather than burned.

The tobacco industry is actively pursuing the market with sales on the rise of many new products such as ‘iQOS’, ‘glo’, and ‘Revo’.

As a scientist and health advocate, I feel it is important that the European Parliament is presented with the available evidence that heated tobacco products remain both harmful and highly addictive. No product that damages the lungs and human health should be promoted to young people across the EU especially in the ways these new products are.


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As Chair of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Standing Committee on Tobacco Control, I will present my research findings to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on the 30th May, alongside MEP Gilles Pargneaux and the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day.

Independent research suggests that there is a substantially higher health risk than claimed by the tobacco industry.

I have discovered that tobacco companies have not informed the public that some harmful substances - such as particulate matter, tar, acetaldehyde (a carcinogen), acrylamide (a potential carcinogen) and an acrolein metabolite (toxic and irritant) - were found in high concentrations in their studies.

Some studies also found much higher concentrations of formaldehyde (a potential carcinogen) in heated tobacco products than in conventional cigarettes.

"As a scientist and health advocate, I feel it is important that the European Parliament is presented with the available evidence that heated tobacco products remain both harmful and highly addictive"

Independent research into these products has also shown that the potentially carcinogenic substance acenaphthene, was found to be almost three times higher than in conventional cigarettes and nicotine and tar levels have been found to be virtually identical to a conventional cigarette.

An experimental animal study found that exposure to these products led to a 60 per cent decrease in blood vessel function - comparable to that induced by cigarette smoke.

Furthermore, one study found that users of heated tobacco products may be forced to smoke at a rapid pace which could lead to an increase in intake of carbonyls (potentially carcinogenic) and nicotine, leading to high levels of nicotine dependence.

The European Commission underlines that “with regard to the sale, presentation and manufacturing of these products within the European Union, the relevant provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive apply and should be enforced. This includes the ban on misleading Professor Charlotta Pisinger elements foreseen by Article 13 and notably any suggestions that a particular tobacco product is less harmful than others”.

I hope MEPs will keep a watchful eye on ensuring these provisions are being implemented. But we can do more and perhaps some national governments will take decisive action.

"Where there's smoke there's fire, goes the saying and MEPs should know that heated tobacco products are addictive and carcinogenic to humans"

Member states are currently assessing the toxicity of these products. In the UK, a government committee has raised concerns ”over the potential for non-smokers including children and young people, who would not otherwise start to smoke cigarettes, to take up using these products as they are not without risk. There was also concern over whether use of these products would lead people to take up smoking conventional cigarettes”.

Where there's smoke there's fire, goes the saying and MEPs should know that heated tobacco products are addictive and carcinogenic to humans.

Above all we should not allow debate around the new tobacco products to distract us from the main job at hand – promoting regulatory measures that we know are effective at reducing smoking and continue to support those who wish to quit smoking.


The ERS-ENSP event “New Heated Tobacco Products: No Smoke, No fire?” hosted by MEP Gilles Pargneaux will take place on Wednesday 30th May 2018 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg from 13:30 to 15:30 in room Louise Weiss N3.5. Register here

About the author

Professor Charlotta Pisinger is Chair of the European Respiratory Society Standing Committee on Tobacco Control

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