Heated Tobacco Products, commonly referred to as HTPs, are a rapidly growing technology in the global marketplace. There continues to be a significant global nicotine consumer behavioural shift, with current and former smokers looking for reduced-risk alternatives to combustible cigarettes. Smokeless nicotine products have been available to consumers for a considerable number of years, such as tobacco-derived snus; and later, e-cigarettes and modern oral nicotine pouches are just some of the next-generation alternatives now available. For the harm-reduction potential of HTP to be realised, high-quality test data must be delivered, not only to regulators but also to the public, to demonstrate the reduction in Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents (HPHCs) of the aerosol in comparison to combustible cigarettes.

History of Heated Tobacco Products

Whilst there has been significant technological advancement of HTPs in the last decade, their origins can be traced back over 30 years. RJ Reynolds tobacco company developed and launched an HTP called Premier in 1988. The product was not a commercial success, with smokers commenting that the taste/smell was unsatisfactory, and it was difficult to know when the product was finished as it didn’t burn down like a traditional cigarette. In the mid-1990s, RJ Reynolds reworked the failed Premier into Eclipse, an extensively market-tested product with “80% less second-hand smoke and virtually no lingering odour”. The market success of the Eclipse can be debated, and the product was still available on the American market until 2014. Other major tobacco companies were also early adopters of HTPs; for example, Philip Morris launched the “Accord” in 1998. The Accord suffered a similar fate to other HTPs of the era and was discontinued in 2006 due to poor acceptance by smokers.

Fast-forward to 2014, and new HTPs were launched by transnational tobacco companies. Philip Morris International (PMI) introduced the market-leading “IQOS” brand, British American Tobacco (BAT, now the owner of RJ Reynolds) launched the HTP “iFuse”; and in 2016, “glo”. Japan Tobacco International (JTI) also launched the HTP hybrid “Ploom TECH” the same year. Upgraded versions of these products have been released by the manufacturers, and NPD for carbon-tip devices remains active. The technology behind the HTP brands can differ, so let’s take a look at the various product categories.

CORESTA member stakeholders agreed to the formation of an HTP task force in 2019. This task force consists of subject matter experts, with representation ranging from HTP manufacturers to independent contract research organisations. One of the initial objectives for the task force was to agree on HTP category and sub-category definitions. HTPs are defined as a product containing tobacco substrate that is designed to be heated and not combusted by a separate source to produce a nicotine-containing aerosol.

Heated Tobacco Product Sub-Categories:

  • Electrically Heated Tobacco Product (eHTP): A product containing a tobacco substrate that is heated with an electrical Tobacco Heating Device (THD) without combustion of the tobacco in order to produce a nicotine-containing aerosol. Market examples include PMI IQOS, Imperial Brands Pulze, BAT’s glo.
  • Aerosol Heated Tobacco Product (aHTP): Different from eHTP in that the tobacco substrate is heated by an aerosol from a THD (without combustion) to produce a nicotine-containing aerosol. The most prominent market example is JTI’s Ploom TECH device.
  • Carbon Heated Tobacco Product (cHTP): The heat source for the tobacco substrate is a smouldering carbon. This produces a nicotine-containing aerosol E.g., pressing a carbon tip located at the end of the “cigarette-like” product. To our knowledge, there are no cHTPs currently on the market, although a number remain in the product development phase.

Lab Analysis of Heated Tobacco Products

The three sub-categories of HTPs present unique challenges for analytical chemists to define specific approaches for the laboratory generation and collection of HTP aerosols. Adaptation of existing cigarette and ENDS analysis methodology has been agreed by subject matter experts as a suitable approach to the aerosol analysis of HTPs. For example, eHTPs have been effectively studied using modifications of the approach outlined in ISO 20778:2018 (routine analytical cigarette-smoking machine – definitions and standard conditions with an intense smoking regime). aHTPs are more aligned with the operation of ENDS devices; for example, button/puff activation rather than defined heating cycles as in eHTPs. For this and other reasons, an adaptation of ISO 20768:2018 (routine analytical vaping machine) is the most suitable candidate regime approach. cHTPs require additional consideration for the management of airflow around the test piece due to the combustible heat source. This can be achieved by the adaptation of ISO 20778:2018.

For the development of a specific analytical methodology for targeted analysis of HTP Harmful and Potentially Harmful Constituents (HPHCs), we can again look to adapt established existing test methods for cigarettes/ENDS and develop a new methodology. The FDA preliminary list of 93 HPHCs was first published in 2012, with a focus on chemicals linked to the most serious health effects of tobacco use. Philip Morris International (PMI) has established an aerosol chemistry list of 58 and evaluated the mainstream aerosol composition of the IQOS Tobacco Heating System for product evaluation and regulatory submission. Collaborative work is ongoing within organisations such as CORESTA to develop recommended HTP analysis methods, with interlaboratory studies to demonstrate result reproducibility.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope you’ve found this introduction to Heated Tobacco Products to be of use. Hall Analytical (now part of Element Materials Technology) is ready to help characterise your business Heated Tobacco Products, providing high-quality data to support your NPD and regulatory submission requirements. With over 10 years’ experience in Reduced-Risk Product testing, we’re recognised as the laboratory partner of choice for the nicotine product sector. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact for a no-obligation consultation.

Pete Gibbons

By Dr Pete Gibbons, Head of Reduced-Risk Product Analysis at Hall Analytical