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‘Heat-Not-Burn’ Tobacco Still Poses Health Risks

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These so-called “heat-not-burn” tobacco products still pose a health risk, even though they are deemed safer to use than regular cigarettes, British experts warn.

An advisory panel to the United Kingdom government said that these devices give out “a number of compounds of concern,” some of which can cause cancer, the BBC reports.

“Heat-not-burn” tobacco products are supposedly for smokers who want the “taste of tobacco with no smoke and less smell.” According to the panel, there are concerns that teenagers who don’t smoke may start using such devices. In addition, non-smokers might be induced to start using tobacco through these products.

The Committee on Toxicity (Cot) examined evidence on the health risks of two such products that have recently hit the UK market: IQOS and iFuse. These are devices that heat tobacco enough to create vapor, but not smoke.

These are different from e-cigarettes, which contain liquids that turn into vapor. E-cigarettes still contain the highly addictive substance nicotine.

The CoT found that people who use heat-not-burn products are exposed to some 50 to 90% fewer “harmful and potentially harmful” compounds compared to regular cigarettes.

Alan Boobis, committee chairman, said:

The evidence suggests that heat-not-burn products still pose a risk to users. There is likely to be a reduction in risk for cigarette smokers who switch to heat-not-burn products but quitting entirely would be more beneficial.

There was not enough data to compare heat-not-burn products with e-cigarettes, but the CoT stated, “If people perceive e-cigarettes as safe this perception could transfer to heat-not-burn tobacco products, despite a lack of data on which to establish this.”

Stopping all tobacco use is still considered the best option for overall halth and well-being, experts say.

For its part, Philip Morris Limited, maker of IQOS, said, “We are encouraged by today’s statement of the UK’s Committee on Toxicity and will continue to share our scientific evidence. We believe that smoke-free alternatives, including heated tobacco products like IQOS and e-cigarettes, have significant potential to be less harmful than cigarettes and can play an important role for smokers and public health.”

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