A new breed of potentially lower-risk tobacco products which heat rather than burn tobacco could set convenience sales alight from 2015.

Heat not burn (HNB) products are unlike electronic cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco but produce vapour by heating nicotine containing e-liquids. HNB devices do contain tobacco, but use vaporisation technology to warm it to the point at which flavour and nicotine is released in the form of vapour, not smoke.

The absence of combustion means that HNB products could release less toxins than conventional cigarettes, thus posing a lower risk to health.

JTI has already entered the market after signing an agreement to commercialise nicotine vaporisers made by San Francisco firm Ploom.

The product, which consists of a vaporiser and capsules filled with compressed tobacco, was soft launched in 200 London stores this summer.

JTI head of communications Jeremy Blackburn said: “We believe there is a real demand from existing adult smokers for alternatives to traditional tobacco products. JTI successfully launched Ploom to selected retailers earlier this year, and we are now in the process of collating data to determine our next steps.”

Rival tobacco firm PMI recently announced it was to invest €500m in a manufacturing facility near Bologna, Italy, to produce reduced-risk tobacco products including HNB devices. CEO André Calantzopoulos said: “The development of reduced-risk products represents a significant step toward achieving the public health objective of harm reduction, and is an important growth opportunity for PMI.”