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Understanding the risks

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.

 
 
An independent evidence review by Public Health England, concluded that 'the current expert estimate is that using e-cigarettes is around 95% safer than smoking'.
E-cigarettes: an evidence update, Public Health England, August 2015.
 

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 level of toxicants different products emit, they can be placed on a risk continuum based on current evidence:

Risk continuum barHIGH LEVEL OF TOXICANTS LOW

Tobacco products that involve no combustion

Nicotine products that contain no tobacco and involve no combustion

Tobacco products that involve no combustion

 
 
Risk Continuum Conventional Cigarettes Tobacco Heating Products Low-toxicant smokeless tobacco Vapour Products (e-cigarettes) Licensed Medicinal Products
 
 

Nicotine products that contain no tobacco and involve no combustion

Conventional Cigarettes
Tobacco Heating Products (THPs)
Low‑toxicant Smokeless Tobacco
Vapour Products (e‑cigarettes)
Licensed Medicinal Products
Conventional Cigarettes

Conventional Cigarettes

Cigarettes are so harmful because burning tobacco generates toxicants in the smoke. Inhaling these smoke toxicants is the cause of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer.

Tobacco Heating Products

Tobacco Heating Products (THPs)

These devices heat tobacco to release the nicotine, but not at a high enough temperature to burn it. This results in far lower levels of toxicants.

Low-toxicant Smokeless Tobacco

Low‑toxicant Smokeless Tobacco

Snus is a type of oral tobacco commonly used in Sweden. It is proven by long‑term, independent health studies to be significantly less harmful than smoking.

Vapour Products (e-cigarettes)

Vapour Products (e‑cigarettes)

Devices such as e‑cigarettes that contain no tobacco and deliver nicotine to the user in the form of vapour. Many respected scientists estimate them to be around 95% less harmful than smoking.

Licensed Medicinal Products

Licensed Medicinal Products

These are nicotine products that have met strict medicinal standards to be authorised as a medicine by the relevant national regulator.

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.

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