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Study Shows Heat-Not-Burn Devices Cut Health Threats From Cigarettes

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A new study is bolstering the harm reduction image of an alternative smoking technology from tobacco companies that may drastically cut health risks from cigarettes.

The Committee on Toxicity, an independent scientific committee that advises health services in the U.K., released new research this month on the health profile of heat-not-burn devices compared to cigarettes. The study concluded that the devices, which heat tobacco leaves rather than burning them, eliminate up to 90 percent of the harmful chemicals and carcinogens released by cigarettes, reports HuffPost.

The researchers urge caution, however, saying the devices still pose a risk to the user’s health, but acknowledge the potential of the devices as harm reduction tools for smokers. They also said they did not have enough evidence to compare the health profile of heat-not-burn products to electronic cigarettes, noting vapor products have more extensive research backing up health claims.

“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,” said Alan Boobis, chairman for the Committee on Toxicology, according to HuffPost.

Heat-not-burn devices like Philip Morris International’s iQOS device, which debuted in Japan last year before being introduced in additional countries, are proving insanely popular with consumers in overseas markets. British American Tobacco is competing with iQOS with a heat-not-burn device of their own called the glo.

Sales for combustible cigarettes are spiraling downward at levels never before seen in Japan’s tobacco market since the introduction of heat-not-burn products.

Japan cigarette volumes declined nearly 17 percent year-over-year, the “fastest rate of decline this year,” according to a report from Piper Jaffray released Dec. 15. The drop in sales far outpaces the 1 to 2 percent annual declines historically seen in cigarette volumes in the country.

Public health experts say this is further proof that smokers will opt for healthier alternatives that can help them quit combustible tobacco when given the choice.

Users of heat-not-burn products insert sticks resembling short cigarettes into the device, which heats a concentrated dose of tobacco. Proponents of the technology have previously argued it drastically cuts the risks from cigarettes because the majority of cancer causing chemicals associated with smoking are only released through combustion.

Despite the promising news on alternative smoking technologies and their potential to reduce smoking-related illnesses and save millions of lives, health care bodies remain vehemently opposed to the products. The World Health Organization recently helped derail efforts to expand access to reduced-risk products in Turkey.

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