California-Based Research Team Finds New Heated Tobacco Products Have Negative Impact on Indoor Air Quality

A new heated tobacco product, widely available outside of the US, is being promoted as a safe alternative to traditional tobacco products. New research findings suggest these products produce  harmful compounds that could negatively affect indoor air quality.

July 3, 2019
By Lydia Greiner, DrPH
Center Coordinator, Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center

Most of us are familiar with electronic cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco products. But we are probably much less familiar with a new product introduced by the tobacco industry just a few years ago, a product that heats rather than burns tobacco, often called “heat-not-burn” or “heated tobacco products”. “Heat-not-burn” products are currently available in more than 40 countries world-wide where they are promoted as less harmful than traditional tobacco products. Philip Morris Inc., manufacturers of a “heat-not-burn” product with the brand name IOQS, described as a smoke-free product that does not negatively impact indoor air quality.

Dr. Hugo Destaillats, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and lead author of a recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology describing emissions from IQOS, says, “The results of our study show clear evidence that emissions from these products contain harmful compounds that could affect indoor air quality. While they may be less harmful than conventional cigarettes, they do not appear to be harmless.”

Dr. Destaillats is part of an international group of researchers who identified and quantified the chemicals emitted by IOQS and compared these emissions to those of traditional tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. Prior studies have compared IOQS emissions to those of traditional tobacco products; this is one of the few studies to compare them to those of electronic cigarettes.

In this study, the IOQS were operated in an environmental chamber to identify and quantify the chemicals emitted and estimate their impact on indoor air quality. The researchers measured both mainstream and sidestream emissions. Mainstream emissions are generated during puffing, and a fraction is exhaled by the user or directly released to indoor air; sidestream emissions are produced by the device as the tobacco is heated.

They identified 66 volatile compound, from which, 16 are on the US Food and Drug Administration’s list of harmful or potentially harmful compounds found in tobacco products or smoke, such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, acetaldehyde, crotonaldehyde and acrylonitrile. When the researchers compared the emissions of conventional cigarettes to those of IOQS, they found traditional tobacco emissions typically had 10-100 times more than IOQS. The comparison with emissions of electronic cigarettes is more compound-dependent: for some contaminants the emissions of electronic cigarettes were greater than those of IOQS, but for others they were lower. In general, emissions from IOQS were comparable to those of electronic cigarettes, and lower than traditional tobacco products.

“The impact indoor air quality is likely to be lower than smoking conventional cigarettes, but it is not negligible” explained Dr. Destaillats, “Regular use of these products can increase the indoor concentration of harmful pollutants.”

Being an alternative nicotine-delivery device, nicotine is emitted by IQOS at roughly the same level as conventional cigarettes. For that reason, and even though the potential impact on thirdhand smoke was not explored in this study, it is reasonable to assume that regular use of these products may contribute to buildup of nicotine residues on indoor surfaces.

Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Click here to read the abstract of the original study.

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