Tobacco Industry Product Terminology

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Tobacco company terminology changes with developments in products, shifts in business strategy and new marketing tactics. As new products become available, the language used by public health organisations and governments also changes, in order to describe, categorise and regulate these products.

The language used by advocates and researchers may vary widely, which can be confusing for those working within the tobacco control field, and more confusing for the public and non-specialists. There is a concern that the use of certain terms could help to promote the interests of the tobacco industry. Therefore, it is important that we carefully consider the terms we use, and how we apply them.1

TobaccoTactics investigates and exposes the strategies of the industry and the tactics it uses to undermine public health, including through the promotion of its products. In some cases, we need to use the language and terminology that the companies use. We aim to make it clear when this is the case.

This page lists the current terms used on TobaccoTactics to refer to products – old and new. It gives some background and context, and outlines some of the current issues around specific terms.  It aims to simplify a complex topic, but it is not an exhaustive list. More detail can be found on specific pages, which are linked in the text.

Note that other outputs from TCRG, or other partners that we work with, may use different terms or definitions as they have different needs and audiences.

Conventional tobacco products

TobaccoTactics uses the term ‘conventional tobacco products’ generally to apply to those products representing the historically main investment focus of transnational tobacco companies (TTCs).

Conventional tobacco products can include:
  • cigarettes, factory made machine-rolled paper tubes containing a filter and tobacco.
  • rolling tobacco (also called ‘roll your own’ or ‘hand rolled tobacco’), particles of tobacco leaf which users hand-roll to create a cigarette.
  • cigars & cigarillos, which have a roll of tobacco particles with an outer wrapper of tobacco leaf.
  • pipe tobacco, which has larger particles than hand rolled tobacco.
  • waterpipe tobacco.
  • smokeless tobacco, which is chewed, sucked, or sniffed to release nicotine without burning.

These products form the bulk of TTC sales and profits. TobaccoTactics does not cover them in depth. We focus on industry tactics and show how product innovation helps companies circumvent or undermine regulation, or mislead the public, for example:

TobaccoTactics does look in detail at snus, a form of smokeless tobacco  enclosed in small paper sachets known as pouches, and a similar product without tobacco leaf called a nicotine pouch.

We also detail industry involvement in the smuggling of conventional products and other activity relating to the illicit tobacco trade.

Newer nicotine and tobacco products

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 newer nicotine and tobacco products (or ‘newer products’).3

Newer nicotine and tobacco products include:
  • electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), which, using battery power, heat a nicotine containing liquid (e-liquid) to create a vapour.
  • heated tobacco products (HTPs), which use an electronic device to heat a tobacco stick.
  • nicotine pouches and other products for putting in the mouth

Previously, TobaccoTactics referred to these products collectively as ‘Next Generation Products’ (NGPs). This term has been used by all the large transnational tobacco companies: Philip Morris International (PMI, used until 2012),4 British American Tobacco (BAT),56 Japan Tobacco International (JTI, and JT Group),78 and Imperial Brands.910

Individual tobacco companies have also described these products using terms such as ‘alternative’ and ‘novel’ products, as well as adopting risk-based terminology.11

As of 2022 the broad collective term used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is ‘Novel and emerging tobacco and nicotine products’.1213 Some tobacco control researchers take a longer, historical view and refer to these as ‘non-conventional’ products.14

TTCs have also promoted some tobacco products previously only used in particular regions or countries, to new customers in the global market. One prominent example is Swedish style snus (see below).

E-cigarettes

E-cigarette, or electronic cigarette,  is a commonly used term. Tobacco companies still use this word, but in their PR and marketing they favour the terms vapour/vapor and vaping.151617 This has the effect of distancing these products from conventional tobacco.18

The term Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) is used by the tobacco control community and policy makers, including the WHO. TobaccoTactics adds this term where it is useful. The WHO uses the term e-cigarette alongside ENDS.19 E-shisha (waterpipe) is included in the definition of ENDS. Tobacco companies do not generally use the term ENDS.

The term Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENNDS) is also sometimes used, but rarely on TobaccoTactics. ENNDS are not a primary interest of TTCs. (Note that ENNDS are sold in some countries where nicotine e-cigarettes are banned, including Japan. See below for more on product regulation)

Heated tobacco products (HTPs)

This term is widely used by tobacco control, policy makers and the tobacco industry.

Tobacco companies have at times referred to these products as ‘Heat-not-Burn’ (HnB) products, or ‘non-combustible’ products.20 These terms are contested.212223

Other terms have been used by industry, including ‘tobacco heating systems/products/devices’2024 and ‘tobacco vapor product’.25

There are some issues with TTCs associating or conflating HTPs with e-cigarettes: JTI, for example refers to its hybrid HTP on a webpage about its ‘vaping products,26 while PMI has conflated its e-cigarette Veev with its heated tobacco product IQOS.27

Products for placing inside the mouth (oral products)

Some oral products contain tobacco leaf. Some oral products do not contain tobacco leaf but still contain nicotine. This nicotine can be derived from tobacco leaf, or synthesised in a laboratory:

  • Smokeless tobacco includes chewing tobacco, snuff and Swedish style snus pouches.  Smokeless tobacco is not new but newer products have been developed recently and older products have been marketed and introduced more widely.
  • New snus-style nicotine pouches do not contain tobacco leaf. All TTCs now own these products.
  • Oral nicotine products include gums and lozenges, in which some tobacco companies have interests. May be referred to as ‘dissolvables’.28
  • Some oral products are classed as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) only after a process of medical approval. NRT is usually a pharmaceutical company product – some tobacco companies own pharmaceutical companies.

For a timeline of TTC investments in newer products, and current flagship brands, see the main page on Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products (previously called Next Generation Products).
TTCs have also invested in various cannabis products.

Adoption of risk-based terms

Tobacco companies have moved towards using harm or risk-based terms to describe their products. These terms have changed over time. As of January 2022, the terms used on the public facing websites of the three largest TTC’s were identical:

  • PMI – “Reduced-Risk Products” (RRP).29 It also uses “Modified Risk Tobacco Product” (MRTP) for its HTP IQOS, aligned with the US FDA regulatory term.30
  • BAT – “Reduced-Risk Products” (RRPs)24
  • JTI – “Reduced-Risk Products” (RRPs)26
  • IMB – “Potentially Reduced Harm Products” (although it was still also using the term “Next Generation Products”, and NGP).3132

The primary motivation of TTCs is to create new markets for their addictive products, and develop a new customer base for the future.3 Read more about how TTCs use the concept, and terminology, of tobacco harm reduction to further their commercial goals.

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.33

Relevant Links

WHO Health Topics: Tobacco

US Food and Drug Administration: Products, Ingredients and Components

UK Government Tobacco Products Glossary

Tobacco Control Research Group statement on novel nicotine and tobacco products

TobaccoTactics Resources

Companies & Products category

Newer Nicotine and Tobacco Products

Harm Reduction

Tobacco Supply Chain

References

  1. R. O’Connor, S.J. Durkin, J.E. Cohen, et al, Thoughts on neologisms and pleonasm in scientific discourse and tobacco control, Tobacco Control,  2021;30:359-360, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056795
  2. Evans-Reeves, K. Lauber, K. Hiscock, R. The ‘filter fraud’ persists: the tobacco industry is still using filters to suggest lower health risks while destroying the environment, Tobacco Control, 26 April 2021, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2020-056245
  3. abSTOP, Addiction At Any Cost: The Truth About Philip Morris International, 20 February 2020, accessed January 2021
  4. Philip Morris International, 2012 Annual Report, accessed January 2022
  5. British American Tobacco, Next Generation Products, March 2018, accessed January 2022
  6. British American Tobacco, BAT launches virtual R&D Visitor Experience, showcasing the world-class science behind next generation reduced-risk*† nicotine products, press release, 19 January 2022, accessed January 2022
  7. Japan Tobacco Group, JT Group launches Ploom X, press release, August 2021, accessed January 2022
  8. Japan Tobacco Group, Integrated Report 2020, accessed January 2022
  9. Imperial Brands, Annual Report and Accounts 2021, 2021, accessed January 2022
  10. Imperial Brands, Next Generation Products, website, undated, accessed January 2022
  11. British American Tobacco, Reduced-risk products, undated, accessed January 2022
  12. World Health Organization, New WHO report shows how manufacturers attempt to avoid regulation of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, press release, 21 June 2021, accessed January 2022
  13. World Health Organization, Litigation relevant to regulation of novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products: comparison across jurisdictions, 2021
  14. Matteusz Zatonski, oral communication to the Tobacco Control Research Group, June 2021
  15. Philip Morris International, Our smoke-free products, website, undated, accessed January 2022
  16. British American Tobacco, BAT’s Vuse becomes the number one global vaping brand, press release, 8 September 2021, accessed January 2022
  17. Imperial Brands, Vapour pilot to build consumer insights, press release, 1 October 2021, accessed January 2022
  18. A. Hancock, Big Tobacco seeks to recast with tech-focused workforceFinancial Times, 19 June 2019, accessed October 2019 (behind paywall)
  19. World Health Organisation, Tobacco: e-cigarettes, 29 January 2020, accessed January 2022
  20. abPhilip Morris International, IQOS heated tobacco products, undated, accessed January 2022
  21. R. Auer, N. Concha-Lozano, I. Jacot-Sadowski et al., Heat-Not-Burn Tobacco Cigarettes: Smoke by Any Other Name, JAMA Internal Medicine, 2017;177(7):1050-1052
  22. B. Davis, M. Williams, P. Talbot, iQOS: evidence of pyrolysis and release of a toxicant from plastic, Tobacco Control, 2019;28:34-41, doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2017-054104
  23. E. Whiteside, Smokeless tobacco: 5 common questions about ‘heat not burn’ products answered, Cancer Research UK science blog, 1 February 2019, accessed February 2022
  24. abBritish American Tobacco, Reduced-risk products*†, website, undated, accessed January 2022
  25. D. Yuki et al/Japan Tobacco Inc., Assessment of the exposure to harmful and potentially harmful constituents in healthy Japanese smokers using a novel tobacco vapor product compared with conventional cigarettes and smoking abstinence, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, Vol. 96, July 2018, pp 127-134, doi: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2018.05.001
  26. abJapan Tobacco International, Reduced Risk Products, our vaping products, website, undated, accessed January 2022
  27. L. Robertson, J. Hoek, K. Silver, PMI New Zealand conflates IQOS heated tobacco products with electronic nicotine delivery systems, Tobacco Control, Published Online First: 19 November 2021, doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056964
  28. US Food and Drug Administration, Dissolvable Tobacco Products, website, undated, accessed January 2021
  29. Philip Morris International, Frequently asked questions about smoke-free products, website, undated, accessed January 2022
  30. Philip Morris International, 10 facts about the FDA’s modified risk tobacco product authorization of IQOS, website, 3 November 2020, accessed January 2021
  31. Imperial Brands, Potentially Reduced Harm Products, website, undated, accessed January 2021
  32. Imperial Brands, Next Generation Products, website, undated, accessed January 2022
  33. World Health Organisation, WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2021: addressing new and emerging products, August 2021
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