British American Tobacco - World-class science

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World-class science

Using science to increase our understanding

For reduced-risk products* (RRPs) to fully contribute to tobacco harm reduction, it’s essential that their reduced-risk status, compared to smoking, is adequately demonstrated by robust science. We’re working to make sure this is the case through our leading scientific research programme.

Research and development is an important part of our business, and has been for more than 60 years.

We make significant investments in R&D to deliver innovations that satisfy or anticipate consumer preferences and generate growth for the business across all categories. The main focus of this investment is in our RRPs*, while we also conduct R&D into our conventional cigarette innovations.

World-class science

Our R&D has undergone major changes in recent times, embracing new technology, methodologies and consumer trends.

We rely on our growing global network of digital hubs, innovation super centres, world-class research and development (R&D) laboratories to stay ahead of the curve.

We are gaining significant momentum with consumers, as satisfying consumer needs effectively is a key indicator of how rapidly we can achieve A Better Tomorrow™. Consumers also want products they can trust which are manufactured to the highest quality and safety standards. Over the last decade, we have built a team of the best scientific talent. Today, we have over 1,500 dedicated scientists and engineers generating world-class science to demonstrate the reduced-risk profile of our New Category products compared to smoking. 

Our latest clinical trial for our tobacco heating product, glo, is the first ever to show that switching to exclusive use of glo instead of continued smoking is comparable to smoking cessation. We know scientific substantiation is essential for our New Category products to make tobacco harm reduction a reality. And we are proud to be leading the way with our world-class science. 

We have an extensive scientific research programme in a broad spectrum of scientific fields including molecular biology, toxicology and chemistry.

Our main R&D Centre is based in Southampton in the UK, supported by R&D teams based in many locations around the world. The research we conduct also includes work undertaken in collaboration with global external researchers.

We use a wide range of analytical techniques, specialised laboratory technology and expertise to test our products to ensure high standards of consumer safety and product quality.

We’ve also developed a framework of scientific tests to assess the reduced-risk potential of our RRPs* relative to smoking cigarettes. This includes testing everything from how consumers use a product and the content of the vapour it produces, to the biological impact of the vapour on cells in laboratory tests and, ultimately, the likely impact of the availability of that product on consumer health.

Our commitment

It’s our job to demonstrate the positive effects our research can have. We place real value on robust, evidence-based and independent scientific findings and we think our science should be judged on its merits.

There are several myths around tobacco and nicotine products that only science can help to dispel. For example, it’s now widely acknowledged that it’s largely the toxicants in tobacco smoke which cause the majority of smoking-related disease – and not the nicotine in tobacco.

The challenges

We are working to develop potentially reduced-risk products and to secure the support of public health professionals and regulators as we bring them to market.

Tobacco companies, scientists and regulators need to work together to ensure a science-based approach to assessing new products that potentially pose less risk than conventional cigarettes. This will provide consumers with the assurance that the product information they receive is based on sound, evidence-based science and allow them to make an informed choice based on the risk profile of different products.

What are we doing?

We will always be transparent about our science. This is central to our approach. We publish details of our scientific research on www.bat-science.com  and submit the results of our research to peer-reviewed scientific journals, irrespective of the findings. This involves an assessment by independent experts to determine whether it is of sufficient quality to be published. We also contribute to debates around tobacco harm reduction at conferences and in publications and reports. Our Science & Innovation Report , published in June 2021, showcases our latest scientific research into New Category products and puts the spotlight on our world-class scientists who are accelerating our transformation. This followed our Science and Technology Report 2017/18 , which explored the evolution of tobacco science and highlighted the alternatives to smoking we have developed. We are proud of our transparent approach to our research and follow strict best practice standards, such as those from the OECD and the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Group.

To date, we have published over 110 papers and manuscripts. These notably include a series for Vype ePen – the most comprehensive dossier of scientific data published on a single vapour product to date – as well as numerous papers on our flagship THP glo and a five-step approach for assessing THPs.

All of our clinical studies are approved by the relevant independent ethics committees before initiation and the majority of our product testing is through independent scientific laboratories and research organisations.

Our clinical studies are governed by the ethical principles of the Declaration of Helsinki (2008), as defined by the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use and CONSORT’s Good Clinical Practice Standard. These principles require that the study is publicly registered, the study’s protocol is published and that a data-handling plan is agreed before the data is acquired. These studies are also registered in the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register before they begin.

Animal testing

We prefer not to test our products on animals and currently do not do this routinely. We keep the subject under constant review with the long-term aim of being able to phase it out. We have invested for many years in the development and use of alternative tests.

Most of our product assessment relies on scientific literature, chemical analyses and biological tests based on cell cultures (‘in vitro’ tests). Most of our resource in this area has been and continues to be aimed at developing non-animal based in vitro tests within our research centres and with external research organisations. Where there is no recognised alternative, animal testing involving laboratory rodents may occasionally have to be done to meet legal and regulatory requirements or public health expectations, particularly in support of new, potentially reduced-risk products.

None of our laboratories has facilities for live animal work, so any that has to be done is contracted to external research organisations, licensed by government authorities.

In 2017, we received recognition from the PETA International Science Consortium Ltd for our significant contribution to help advance non-animal testing.

*Assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products have the potential to be less risky and are addictive.

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