90% lower toxicity levels for heated tobacco

A research suggests that levels of toxic substances in heated tobacco, which is one of the latest generation of tobacco products, emit 90% less toxic substances than conventional cigarettes. Heated tobacco is experiencing considerable growth in countries such as Japan. Since this study was funded by British American Tobacco, caution is warranted until replicated by an independent team.


Concentrations of toxic substances in Glo vapours were found to be about 90% lower than those in cigarette smoke. Glo is a product that heats tobacco rather than burning. Heated tobacco has a lower temperature than a cigarette (approximately 240 degrees Celsisus for heated tobacco versus 900 degrees Celsisus for cigarettes). 1

Our studies on Glo show that it produces significantly lower levels of harmful or potentially harmful components than a cigarette, according to Dr. James Murphy, who is responsible for harm reduction at British American Tobacco. It was found that the vapour produced had lower values of toxic substances than cigarette smoke, which should in principle expose consumers to far fewer toxic substances. It is the toxic substances in smoke that cause most of the diseases associated with smoking.

British American Tobacco scientists analyzed and compared Glo vapor, a commercially available tobacco heating product, with the smoke of a reference cigarette and found substantial reductions in Glo emissions. Most of the toxic substances in cigarette smoke could not be detected in the steam of the Glo.

This comprehensive chemical assessment is part of an approach we have developed to demonstrate the reduced-risk potential of heated tobacco products and other next-generation products over conventional cigarettes, according to Murphy. We believe that such an approach is essential to communicate to consumers and legislators that the information available on our products is based on sound and evidence-based science according to the researcher.

Scientists evaluated 126 substances including toxic substances identified by Health Canada, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the WHO Task Force on Tobacco Regulation (TobReg) as harmful or potentially harmful to health. These substances are produced by burning tobacco.

A smoking robot has been used to generate smoke or steam in the laboratory in a way that mimics the realistic use of products. Air samples were also produced to compare smoke and steam. An emissions analysis showed that Glo produced a much simpler aerosol than cigarettes. On average, Glo emitted less than 95% of the 102 of the 126 compounds that could be measured compared to smoke. For the 9 toxic substances proposed by WHO to be reduced in cigarette smoke, the overall average reduction was 97.1%, while for the 18 substances requiring mandatory reporting by the FDA, it was 97.5%.

24 substances could not be detected/quantified in Glo emissions, smoke or both. The results add to a body of evidence that could be used to support Glo as a lower-risk product than conventional cigarettes. Heated tobacco, also known as Heat-Not-Burn products, is very popular, especially in Japan. This study must be taken with caution as it is funded by British American Tobacco, which relies on these new products. This is why it will have to be replicated by independent teams to demonstrate its reliability. Electronic cigarettes are even less toxic than heated tobacco in the current state of knowledge. Indeed, as its name suggests, heated tobacco involves direct tobacco consumption while electronic cigarettes only provide nicotine. So, on toxicity, heated tobacco could be equivalent to an e-cigarette, but in terms of addiction, it’s another story.