We believe that producing reduced toxicant cigarettes, supported by scientific regulatory framework, has the potential to reduce the projected future harm from tobacco use.
We recognise how important it is to seek engagement with regulators, health authorities and other scientists to discuss which product changes would be supported by public health groups and might gain consumer acceptability, how new products may be tested, and how their attributes might be communicated to consumers.
Reducing specific smoke constituents
Emphasis has been placed on research to identify which smoke toxicants pose the greatest health risks and developing new technologies to reduce these. We have and are actively investigating how specific constituents of cigarette smoke might be selectively reduced or removed, and developing innovative toxicant reducing technologies to address this.
Recent publications from the US Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Scientific Committee and the World Health Organisation’s scientific advisory group suggests that future regulation of combustible tobacco products could be based on the toxicant levels emitted from them.
The harm reduction potential of such regulation is not clearly understood but our research into reduced toxicant cigarettes will prepare us for the regulatory future.
Measuring exposure to smoke and its constituents is one important step towards developing reduced risk cigarettes. Another is understanding how reduced exposure might reduce harm in the human body.
The nature of tobacco-related diseases is such that they can take decades to manifest themselves, which means that today, a real scientific challenge is to develop testing regimes that reliably predict future disease outcomes.
Our first clinical study showed that smokers who switched to modified prototype cigarettes had reduced exposure to certain smoke toxicants compared to people smoking conventional cigarettes.
This short-term clinical study is a good first step, but we need stronger scientific evidence to establish reduced risk. We are now planning a longer term clinical study starting in 2012. This will measure biomarkers of biological effect in body fluids that could indicate biological changes related to disease processes.
Although these changes will not tell us whether the modified prototype cigarettes actually present lower overall health risks, they provide evidence we need to see as to whether we are on the right track.
Funding external research
We have a number of research collaborations with academic and industrial partners, as well as specific trade organisations, regulators and, in some areas, local governments. Most of our collaborations focus on our research efforts in support of tobacco harm reduction.
Lower tar products
Historically, the main modifications to cigarettes that proved acceptable to consumers, governments and health authorities have been lowering tar yields, as measured by a standardised machine method. This included introducing filtered cigarettes.
It was found that a practical and simpler way to reduce deliveries of individual smoke constituents would be to reduce smoke yields overall, with machines measuring this in a standardised way. The work, therefore, focused on using filters, ventilation and other design features to reduce tar.
In lower tar products, there has been an overall reduction in the levels of most of the constituents of concern to governments and health bodies as measured by standardised machine tests. However, many public health bodies no longer support the theory that lowering cigarette tar deliveries somewhat lowers the risks of smoking. Recent reports by the World Health Organisation and the US National Cancer Institute conclude that smoking lower tar delivery cigarettes does not reduce the risks.
While the hypothesis that reducing exposure should reduce risks remains, questions are currently being asked as to whether low tar yielding cigarettes, as measured on machines, actually result in reduced exposure when in the hands of smokers.
Institute of Medicine report
In 2001, the Institute of Medicine (IOM), part of the US National Academy of Sciences, released a substantial report called ‘Clearing the Smoke: Assessing the science base for tobacco harm reduction’. The IOM’s work included considering potentially reduced exposure products.
While affirming that the greatest health benefit comes from not smoking, one of the report’s main conclusions was that “for many diseases attributable to tobacco use, reducing risk of diseases by reducing exposure to tobacco toxicants is feasible”.
We are encouraged that the report concluded that work on potentially reduced exposure products is viable and justifiable on public health grounds, and that the industry should be encouraged to work on reduced exposure products and be provided realistic incentives to do so.
We think it is also important to note that the IOM suggested a large research agenda to help characterise the relative risks of new tobacco products.
Find out more about the report at the IOM’s website
Our research continues, although the science is very challenging and we still cannot be certain about what might constitute a potentially reduced harm cigarette. Through dialogue with public health groups and others, we seek ways to characterise the relative risks of new types of tobacco products to inform our research efforts.