Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products

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Since the early 2000s transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) have developed interests in newer nicotine and tobacco products, including e-cigarettes (also known as electronic delivery systems, or ENDS), heated tobacco products (HTPs), snus and nicotine pouches. Companies have referred to these types of product as ‘next generation products’ (NGPs) although terminology changes over time.

As the harms from conventional products have become better understood, and tobacco control measures have been put in place, the cigarette market – from which tobacco companies make most of their profits – has started to shrink. To secure the industry’s longer-term future, TTCs have invested in, developed and marketed various newer products, including in low and middle-income countries.1  They are often publicly linked to tobacco companies’ harm reduction strategies and labelled ‘reduced risk’ or ‘modified risk’ products.

There is ongoing scientific and policy debate about the role of these products in tobacco control, with concerns around long term health effects, marketing to youth, and how this diversification may help the industry to build credibility and influence  policy makers.12

It is important to note that, despite increasing investment in these products, the core of the global tobacco industry’s business remains unchanged. Newer products form a small proportion of their revenue, compared to conventional products, and will do so for the foreseeable future.

Products

Although they are often marketed as ‘new’, companies may have been developing and marketing versions of these products for decades, frequently with limited initial consumer acceptance until the 2000s, when tobacco harm reduction became more popular as a public health strategy.

The following graphic summarises the main TTC products and links to TobaccoTactics pages which contain more information. Note that brand names may vary in different countries.

See Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products: Tobacco Company Brands to see this information in table format.

You can also view a timeline of key tobacco company investments in e-cigarettes and HTPs.

Tobacco Company Investment and Development Strategies

Individual tobacco companies have different development strategies. Although most have a mix of newer products in their portfolios, Philip Morris International (PMI), for example, has mainly invested in and promoted heated tobacco products. Unsurprisingly it is the market leader in this product category. In contrast, Imperial Brands (IMB, previously Imperial Tobacco) resisted following the same route: until 2019, it focused solely on expanding its e-cigarette brand ”blu”. Japan Tobacco International (JTI)’s focus has mainly been on developing hybrid products that combine e-cigarette technology with tobacco sticks. British American Tobacco (BAT) has arguably the most diverse portfolio, including e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, and hybrid products. All TTCs now have interests in snus and nicotine pouches.

TTCs have added these newer products to their portfolios in a number of ways:

For more details on companies’ newer product portfolios, and how they have developed, see:

Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products: Philip Morris International

Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products: British American Tobacco

Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products: Japan Tobacco International

Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products: Imperial Brands

Product Regulation

Some information about product regulation can be found on specific pages.

For detailed, up to date information at country level, see the searchable database on the Tobacco Control Laws website, published by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK).

For countries that are parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) progress towards implementation of relevant articles, including newer products, is detailed in the FCTC implementation database.3

Can Newer Products Help Advance Public Health?

Globally, there is an ongoing debate about the potential role of these newer tobacco and nicotine products in advancing public health. Tobacco companies have claimed an interest in harm reduction as a motivation for developing and marketing these products.45

However, a study by researchers from the University of Bath’s Tobacco Control Research Group found that the sale and promotion of these products, and the associated harm reduction narrative, serve to “…‘renormalize’ an industry that is determined to be seen as a responsible business with a legitimate product…”.4 The study also found that the products and narrative are used as tools for tobacco companies to initiate dialogue with scientists, public health experts, politicians and policy makers, thereby re-framing themselves as ‘part of the solution’ rather than being the problem.4 Therefore, the tobacco industry is using newer products as a way to try and re-enter the policy arena from which it has increasingly, and successfully, been excluded in line with Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Tobacco company presentations and documents show that the primary motive remains profit; the main driver for growth is conventional tobacco products; and this is likely to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.6 78

At its 2019 Annual General Meeting PMI’s CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said that, while its newer products were increasingly complementing its cigarette business, the company was “committed to maintaining leadership of the cigarette category” and that it would be “focusing innovation on fewer, more impactful [cigarette] initiatives that can be deployed swiftly in any market”.9 Similarly, BAT’s CEO Jack Bowles told investors in August 2019: “Our combustible business continues to drive the financial performance of the group and we are performing well”.10

For more examples of similar industry statements see the page on e-cigarettes.

WHO Urges Caution

The WHO published an information sheet on HTPs in July 2018. It stated that:

“All forms of tobacco use are harmful, including HTPs. Tobacco is inherently toxic and contains carcinogens even in its natural form. Therefore, WHO recommends that HTPs should be subject to the same policy and regulatory measures applied to all other tobacco products, in line with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).”11

In March 2019, the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC issued an information note, which compiled all Conference of the Parties (COP) decisions related to e-cigarettes. 

A few months later, the Secretariat released a statement urging governments to remain vigilant, stating that:

“novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products…are creating another layer of interference by the tobacco industry and related industries, which is still reported by Parties as the most serious barrier to progress in implementing the WHO FCTC”.12

It also reminded Parties of their obligations under Article 5.3 to protect tobacco control policies and activities from all commercial and vested interests.12

Relevant Links

STOP/Tobacco Control Research Group, ”Addiction At Any Cost: Philip Morris International Uncovered”, 20 February 2020

TobaccoTactics Resources

TCRG Research

For a comprehensive list of all TCRG publications, including TCRG research that evaluates the impact of public health policy, go to the Bath TCRG’s list of publications.

References

  1. abSTOP, Addiction At Any Cost: The Truth About Philip Morris International, 20 February 2020, accessed January 2021
  2. S. Peeters, A.B. Gilmore, Understanding the emergence of the tobacco industry’s use of the term harm reduction in order to inform public health policy, Tobacco Control, 2015; 24:182-189, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051502
  3. World Health Organisation, WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2021: addressing new and emerging products, August 2021
  4. abcS. Peeters, A.B. Gilmore, Understanding the emergence of the tobacco industry’s use of the term harm reduction in order to inform public health policy, ”Tobacco Control”, 2015; 24:182-189
  5. Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products, Addiction At Any Cost: Philip Morris International Uncovered, STOP report, 20 February 2020, accessed February 2020
  6. Japan Tobacco Inc., JT Group, 2019 Second-Quarter results, CFP Presentation, 1 August 2019, accessed September 2019
  7. British American Tobacco, Transforming Tobacco, BAT Annual Report 2018
  8. Imperial Tobacco, Building blu, Investor Day Presentation, 25 September 2018
  9. L.C. Camilleri, A. Calantzopoulos, Presentation Slides, Annual Meeting of Shareholders, Philip Morris International, New York, 1 May 2019], PMI website, accessed February 2020
  10. J. Bowles, T. Marroco, 2019 Half Year results Presentation, British American Tobacco website, accessed October 2019
  11. WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, Heated tobacco products (HTPs) market monitoring information sheet, WHO website, July 2018, accessed February 2020
  12. abWorld Health Organization, The Convention Secretariat calls Parties to remain vigilant towards novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products, FCTC press release, 13 September 2019, accessed October 2019
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