Why certain nicotine products are less risky than smoking
It's mainly the toxicants in cigarette smoke that causes the harm, not the nicotine.
There is huge potential in Next Generation Products, but there are challenges to overcome, as you would expect with any new product category.
One is the concerns about consumer safety and the long-term health risks. Of course, Vapour Products (e-cigarettes) are not entirely without risk, but they are widely considered to be significantly less risky than smoking.
Nicotine is most commonly associated with smoking cigarettes and, as a result, there are misconceptions surrounding it. Many people are unaware that it’s largely the toxicants in cigarette smoke which causes the harm – not the nicotine itself.
As the UK National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) said in their 2013 report: “Most health problems are caused by other components in tobacco smoke, not by the nicotine.”
So where products don’t contain tobacco or don’t generate tobacco smoke, they have the potential to be significantly less harmful to health.
To help people understand the relative risks of different types of tobacco and nicotine products, they can be placed on a risk continuum based on exposure to toxicants.
Cigarettes are by far the most harmful way to consume tobacco. Inhaling toxicants contained within the smoke causes the overwhelming majority of smoking-related disease.
These products contain tobacco that, instead of being burned, is heated to vaporise the nicotine into an inhalable aerosol. This provides the consumer with the taste and flavour of smoking but with far lower levels of toxicants.
Snus is a type of low-toxicant oral tobacco that we currently sell in Sweden and Norway. It is proven by independent health studies to be substantially less risky than smoking.
These contain an 'e-liquid', made up of nicotine and other ingredients, which is heated to deliver nicotine to the user in the form of vapour. They don't contain tobacco and there is no combustion, so there are significantly lower levels of toxicants.
These are nicotine products which are authorised as a medicine by the country's medicine regulator to help people reduce, replace or stop smoking. They are subject to strict regulations.
Nicotine is addictive and can be dangerous if ingested in concentrations much higher than found in cigarette smoke or e-cigarette vapour. Therefore, our e-cigarettes packs, inserts and e-liquid refills have appropriate warnings, are sold in child-proof containers and are clearly labelled as being for those aged 18 and over. Our marketing of e-cigarettes is aimed at adult smokers only.
There is also some debate around the best way to regulate Next Generation Products. Our concern is that overly restrictive regulation, such as bans on advertising or vaping in public places, could stifle growth and the potential benefits these products can bring as part of a progressive approach to public health policy.
That is why we have been working with governments and regulators to ensure the effective frameworks are in place to protect consumers while ensuring proper marketing freedoms exist. This will help grow the category and meet the demand for less risky alternatives to smoking.