Heat Not Burn (HNB) tobacco products pose much less of a health risk to smokers than conventional cigarettes - but stopping smoking entirely would be more beneficial to health, an influential advisory panel has told the government.
The Committee on Toxicity (COT) had been tasked with assessing the toxicological risks from HNB products, and comparing them to those from conventional cigarettes.
Overall, the committee concluded that “while there is a likely reduction in risk for smokers switching to HNB tobacco products, there will be a residual risk and it would be more beneficial for smokers to quit smoking entirely.”
The COT analysed two HNB products which are currently available on the UK market: The IQOS device manufactured by Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco’s (BAT) iFuse.
Investigations on both products showed a significant fall in harmful and potentially harmful compounds generated by the devices, compared to smoke from a conventional cigarette, with some compounds reduced by more than 90%.
Harmful compounds in second-hand smoke generated by HNB products were also significantly lower than in that generated by conventional tobacco products.
“The normal recommendation of the committees is that exposure to such chemicals is kept as low as reasonably practicable, but there would be a likely reduction in risk for smokers deciding to use HNB tobacco products compared with continuing to smoke cigarettes, as the exposure to harmful and potential harmful compounds is reduced,” the COT said.
“Nevertheless using heat-not-burn tobacco products would involve a greater risk compared to stopping smoking completely.
“A reduction in risk would be expected to be experienced by bystanders where smokers switch to heat-not-burn tobacco products,” it added.
The committee also raised concerns over the potential for non-smokers, including young people, to take up the use of HNB products and advised the government to conduct research on this going forward.
Philip Morris International (PMI) said it was “encouraged” by the findings.
“We welcome independent review of scientific evidence about smoke-free products from competent authorities. We are encouraged by today’s statement of the UK’s COT and will continue to share our scientific evidence.
“We believe that smoke-free alternatives, including heated tobacco products like IQOS and e-cigarettes, have significant potential to be less harmful than cigarettes and can play an important role for smokers and public health.”