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What’s new in Tobacco Heating Products?

With regulators and public health bodies renewing their pivotal efforts to tackle the harm caused by smoking, 2021 has been an important year for Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR). As the need for scientific evidence, which can inform public health policy, grows, never has research and development been more important.  In the area of Tobacco Heating Products (THP), it is acknowledged that there are currently only limited data globally compared to vapour products and there is a need for further evidence to scientifically-substantiate the reduced-risk*† potential of this category of alternative tobacco products.

For BAT, this has been a pivotal year, as we published the 6-month results from our ground-breaking one-year study of our flagship THP, glo.  This was the biggest study ever undertaken by BAT and makes a significant contribution to the evidence-base for this category.

We were excited to see the results recorded at the 6-month mark showing that switching completely to glo resulted in statistically significant changes across a range of biomarkers of exposure and biomarkers of potential harm, compared with continuing to smoke.

a gloved hand holding a BAT product
Tobacco Harm Reduction

To encourage adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch, they need information about and access to alternative tobacco and nicotine products, backed by sound science.

It is this sharing of information that is a key component of Tobacco Harm Reduction and helps smokers find alternative products that meet their preferences and offer comparable satisfaction in nicotine delivery, use and sensorial aspects.

It is widely accepted in the scientific community that it is combustion, not nicotine, that is the cause of smoking related diseases, but we know that smokers will only switch to reduced-risk products* if they deliver the right sensorial experiences.
a scientist in a lab
Reduced-Risk Products*

In the United States, the Institute of Medicine has defined Tobacco Harm Reduction as ‘decreasing total morbidity and mortality without the complete elimination of tobacco and nicotine use'.1

This recognises the potential benefits of quitting smoking while acknowledging the fact that some smokers will choose to continue to use tobacco and/or nicotine.

In its 2012 monograph1, the Institute proposed two criteria for considering a tobacco product to be a reduced-risk product compared to smoking:

1. A significant favourable difference in biomarkers

of exposure and biomarkers of potential harm compared to continued smoking

2. Similarity of effect size compared with cessation,

concluding that the closer the risks and exposures of the modified risk tobacco products are to cessation, the more confident a regulator can be in the chances for net public health benefit

glo study

To assess the potential of glo, we conducted a one-year clinical study. THPs, like glo, heat tobacco rather than burning it, leading to less emissions and less toxicants than traditional cigarettes.** We wanted to see what impact switching completely to glo over an extended period of time could have on biomarkers of exposure and biomarkers of potential harm.

This study involved over 500 volunteers and was carried out in a real-world setting, meaning the participants went about their daily lives and visited UK-based clinics once a month. There they had breath, urine, and blood samples taken for analysis.

a cut out of the glo product

12-month clinical study on glo

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vape icon
some switched completely to glo
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reduction in biomarkers of exposure

Results recorded at the 6-month mark of the 12-month study showed that switching completely to glo resulted in statistically significant changes across a range of biomarkers of exposure and biomarkers of potential harm, compared with continuing to smoke. For most biomarkers measured, the reductions seen in people using glo were similar to those in participants who stopped smoking completely2. These data were published in the journal Internal and Emergency Medicine.

David O'Reilly presenting to the camera

BAT’s Director of Scientific Research, Dr David O’Reilly, proudly presented the data at scientific media events in Russia and Romania earlier this year.

These are exciting results as they allow us to understand the potential for risk-reduction that switching completely to glo can deliver.

“The study shows that smokers switching to glo can reduce their exposure to certain toxicants, which reduces their risk of developing certain smoking related diseases.  To have shown a significant reduction in measures of biomarkers of potential harm, some comparable to quitting completely, is very encouraging and provides further scientific substantiation of the harm reduction potential of glo and how it supports our ambition to build A Better Tomorrow™ by reducing the health impact of our business.”

a man smiling

The results from the full 12-month study will be published in 2022.

Senior Clinical Scientist, Nathan Gale, who led this important study, took to the virtual stage to present the data at this year’s 4th Scientific Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction in September.

We designed this study to explore the potential of glo when used by people going about their every-day lives, so the importance of the results we have achieved cannot be underestimated.

* Based on the weight of evidence and assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products are not risk free and are addictive.

**This is a comparison between the smoke from a combusted scientific standard reference cigarette (approximately 9mg tar) and vapour from heated tobacco in glo, in terms of the average of the 9 harmful components the World Health Organization recommends to reduce in cigarette smoke.

† Our products as sold in the US, including Vuse, Velo, Grizzly, Kodiak, and Camel Snus, are subject to FDA regulation and no reduced-risk claims will be made as to these products without agency clearance.

1. Institute of Medicine. 2012. Scientific Standards for Studies on Modified Risk Tobacco Products. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. - VIEW LINK

2. Gale, N., McEwan, M., Camacho, O.M. et al. Changes in biomarkers after 180 days of tobacco heating product use: a randomised trial. Intern Emerg Med 16, 2201–2212 (2021). - VIEW LINK