As well as studying the way consumers use the product, we test what’s in the emissions and what the emissions do to human cells in the lab. We also evaluate how using the product impacts the human body, and how that can affect population health. Taken together, the results of these tests indicate whether using one of these products has the potential to carry less health risks than smoking.
Watch the short video below to find out more about our science
Using a puffing analyser, we study the way consumers use vapour and tobacco heating products and compare the findings to those from cigarette smoking. This enables us to replicate the puffing behaviour in our lab studies to ensure cells are consistently exposed to the same amount of emissions in a way that reflects consumer behaviour.
Using data from our behavioural studies, we programme puffing robots to produce emissions in a representative way. We then run a wide range of lab-based chemical tests not only to see whether the product produces substances known to be harmful/potentially harmful, but also to identify any new compounds that might be formed unexpectedly.
We also evaluate the impact the emissions have on the health of living human cells in the lab. To do this, we expose them to emissions and then examine them to see whether they show signs of DNA damage or any genetic mutations or other changes that could lead to the formation of tumours or diseases (such as COPD and cardiovascular disease). We compare the findings to those from cells exposed to cigarette smoke or to ambient air to see whether there is a difference.
To make our tests as realistic as possible we are pioneering the use of 3D tissue models that more accurately reflect the structure and function of normal human airways. This also helps us reduce the need for animal testing; in 2017, we received recognition from the PETA International Science Consortium Ltd for our significant contribution to help advance non-animal testing.
To understand how using these products impact the human body, we conduct clinical studies on people to see whether they are exposed to harmful chemicals by using the products. Consumers are monitored over a set period of time whilst using the products, and we collect readings for certain chemicals in urine, blood, saliva and breath samples, and compare them to those from people who smoke conventional cigarettes.
We also study smokers who switch completely to one of our vapour or tobacco heating products to see whether this makes a difference to what they are exposed to and how the body responds compared both to quitting or continuing smoking. We also look at how fast nicotine is taken into the body to understand nicotine delivery from these products compared to cigarettes.
Find out more about our year-long clinical study on our tobacco heating product, glo, here.
Rather than waiting decades for health effects to emerge, we have developed a validated computer modelling approach to assess whether making our vapour and tobacco heating products available to the public could affect public health. Our computer models take into account all types of consumers, including current smokers, non-smokers, former smokers, vapers, and people who use more than one type of product. These people are represented through a feedback system, as are factors that affect starting and quitting rates – helping us to predict what might happen in the future.
The results from this assessment framework help us build a picture of how our products compare to cigarettes in terms of their potential for reduced risk.