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To maximise our contribution to the ongoing debate around Next Generation Products, we’ve outlined our scientifically-informed positions on key topics below.
For example, speed limits and safety belts can be considered harm reduction policies: rather than banning a certain product or behaviour completely – in this case cars and driving – they aim to make the activity safer.
The same principle applies to tobacco harm reduction (THR). Nicotine is addictive but it’s not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. The highest risk of disease comes from burning tobacco and inhaling the smoke. Tobacco smoke contains over 7000 chemicals – nicotine being one of them – and around 100 of these are classified by public health experts as causes or potential causes of smoking-related disease.
Advances in innovation and technology over the last two decades have created new ways to consume nicotine. By removing the burning of tobacco, or eradicating the presence of tobacco entirely, Next Generation Products (NGPs) produce fewer and significantly lower levels of these harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes. A range of NGPs now exist. Heated tobacco and snus products contain but don’t burn tobacco. Vape and tobacco-free oral nicotine products contain nicotine but not tobacco.
Complete cessation of all tobacco and nicotine use is the best action adult smokers can take to improve their health. However, a growing number of public health bodies and regulators are clear: encouraging and assisting adult smokers – who are neither interested nor willing to quit smoking – to transition to NGPs is the next best option.
Successful THR relies on two simultaneous outcomes:
In other words, while NGPs have the potential to enable THR on a global level, this will only occur if they’re accepted and used by large numbers of adult smokers instead of conventional cigarettes.
We firmly believe in the power of THR through NGPs; after all, they’ve already helped millions of adult smokers worldwide to reduce or replace conventional cigarette smoking.
Unfortunately, despite strong scientific evidence (including from observational studies and population-level data), the contribution NGPs can potentially make to THR isn’t universally accepted by all public health bodies and regulatory regimes. A combination of mixed messages and misinformation means many adult smokers remain confused about the potential benefits of NGPs.
Our goal therefore is to work together to drive a unified, data and fact-based conversation which delivers a consistent and accurate message for the important role THR can play in reducing smoking-related harm for adult smokers.
Our Scientific Assessment Framework was created as a means of building and illustrating scientific knowledge around our various NGPs. It integrates several assessment steps designed to evaluate:
The results to date across our NGP portfolio are hugely encouraging.
The studies we conduct are also guided and shaped by the ongoing public policy debate around NGPs. We regularly seek advice from science experts, academics and the public health community, to ensure we produce meaningful and highly applicable studies. This involves addressing research gaps, inviting third party professionals to critique our science through the process of peer reviews, and regularly presenting our research at international conferences.
Nicotine is an addictive substance. All Imperial Brands products contain either mandatory or voluntary health warnings stating this or informing about the health risks associated with tobacco products.
The health risks associated with smoking are well known. Public health experts worldwide have concluded that the highest risks from smoking are from burning tobacco and inhaling the smoke and that nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases .
Nicotine produces a broad range of physiological effects, including increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased respiration. However, these effects are transient. To date, the scientific consensus is that nicotine has not been established to cause, by itself, cardiovascular disease or cancer         . Nicotine is not a known carcinogen and its use in traditional medicinal nicotine products (e.g. nicotine gums and patches) has been well-established through years of pharmaceutical clinical trials.
Some studies have suggested that nicotine can potentially impair cognitive development if used by adolescents and may have adverse effects on developing foetuses. Nicotine has also been implicated in the development of insulin resistance and irregularities in glucose metabolism which could aggravate diabetes   .
Nicotine containing products should only be used by current adult smokers or existing adult NGP users. We recommend consumers who have a pre-existing medical condition consult their doctor before using a nicotine-containing product. In addition, if consumers are planning to become pregnant, or are pregnant or are breastfeeding, they should not use one of our nicotine containing products.
With advances in innovation and technology, there are now various ways to consume nicotine, decoupled from tobacco smoke. Non-combustible nicotine products including vapes, heated tobacco and oral nicotine products (with and without tobacco) are termed Next Generation Products, or NGPs. Although consumption of nicotine may contain some health risk, it is widely accepted that NGPs present an attractive tobacco harm reduction alternative for adult smokers because the nicotine in these products is consumed without burning tobacco.
Like many substances, at high doses nicotine can be poisonous. However, it is not poisonous at the levels typically consumed through NGPs when the products are used as intended by adult smokers. NGPs need to be stored securely and retailed responsibly, with appropriate packaging and labelling, to ensure vulnerable people – including minors – cannot access them. They should also not be adapted or tampered with.
Non-tobacco flavours play a critical role in attracting adult smokers to NGPs. Flavours making the transition from smoking to non-smoking a pleasurable one, thereby directly contribute to tobacco harm reduction (THR) and declining smoking rates. Flavourless – or limited flavoured – NGPs constitute bland and boring experiences that adult smokers are unlikely to find attractive.
With regards to vaping, a growing body of evidence shows adult smokers generally initiate vaping using tobacco-flavours (assuming a more natural connection and similarity to conventional cigarettes), but then they swiftly transition to non-tobacco flavours – particularly fruit, sweet and dessert – over time. This helps them clearly distinguish and eliminate their previous cues of smoking, from vaping.
Overall, this highlights the importance of maximising flavour availability and accessibility to achieve THR policy goals.
We believe a wide range of NGP flavours should be permitted, provided they meet hi
gh quality product stewardship standards and are not marketed or presented in any way that might appeal to vulnerable populations like youth.
There is a significant risk that reduced availability and accessibility of flavours will hamper the number of adult smokers transitioning to NGPs, as well as inadvertently causing many current NGP users to relapse to conventional cigarettes. In addition, flavour restrictions could also potentially encourage the development of DIY and/or black-market flavours, both of which present and/or increase safety risks to the consumer.
NGPS do not burn tobacco. Any side-steam or so-called ‘second-hand smoke’ produced by conventional cigarettes simply isn’t present.
Our own research has shown that use of heated tobacco products and vapes indoors don’t release chemicals or toxins into the air at levels that would pose any air quality issue to bystanders when compared to indoor air quality regulations and guidelines.
Meanwhile, our oral nicotine products are neither inhaled nor exhaled. There is therefore no known air quality-related risk to others.
We believe it should be up to individual premises to decide whether to permit NGP use, either indoors or outdoors. However, NGP users should be both aware of and respectful to others at all times.
We firmly believe that NGP regulation shouldn’t be modelled on tobacco product regulation, as this fails to consider the vital role NGPs play in tobacco harm reduction (THR). Instead, regulation should be based on mandatory compliance with high product quality, manufacturing and safety standards to provide adult smokers with the satisfaction they seek through conventional cigarettes but in a potentially harm reduced way.
To ensure NGPs are used by adult smokers only, these measures should be accompanied by robust youth access prevention measures.
Undisputed NGP standards, based on sound science, will create a level playing field for manufacturers. They will also ensure consumer safety and confidence, providing adult smokers with access to high quality products and information they can trust.
This maximises the public health opportunity to encourage as many adult smokers as possible to transition away from smoking.
We continue to share the results of our research with national and international standards bodies to help develop robust testing and manufacturing standards. This is critical to both supporting consumer and regulatory expectations and helping maximise the harm reduction potential of NGPs.