Tobacco harm reduction is a potentially life-saving intervention for millions of people across the world. To those who currently use high-risk tobacco products, like cigarettes and some oral tobaccos, it offers the chance to switch to a range of safer nicotine products (SNP) that pose fewer risks to their health.
These safer nicotine products fall into five main categories:
Nicotine vapes (e-cigarettes)
Nicotine vapes (e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that produce an aerosol which contains nicotine as well as a range of flavourings. The battery heats up a coil or atomiser which turns the flavoured liquid into a vapour to be inhaled.
Using vaping products instead of combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces the users’ exposure to multiple toxicants and carcinogens present in tobacco smoke. This means that vaping products are at least 95 per cent safer than cigarettes.
Heated tobacco products
Heated tobacco products (HTP) are battery-operated electronic devices that heat sticks of tobacco to a temperature of no more than 350°C. This is below the level of combustion, so while it is sufficient to release nicotine in a vapour, which is inhaled by the user, it does not produce the cocktail of harmful chemicals found in smoke.
HTP therefore generate significantly lower levels of harmful constituents when compared to cigarettes because their use does not involve the burning of tobacco.
Nicotine pouches are thumbnail-sized sachets containing vegetable fibres infused with nicotine and a range of flavours. Placed in the mouth between the lip and gum, nicotine is absorbed through the oral mucous membrane.
Since nicotine pouches contain no tobacco, and require no combustion, their use avoids many of the risks associated with smoking that result from the burning of tobacco.
Find out more about nicotine pouches in our Briefing Paper here.
Snus is an oral tobacco product that has been used for more than 200 years. Named after the Swedish word for snuff, snus is made from ground tobacco leaves that are mixed with salt and water. It may also contain food-grade tobacco smoke aroma, or other flavourings, and is placed under the upper lip either in small teabag-like sachets called portion snus or loose. Snus is most widely used in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden and Norway, where a form of the product known as ‘Swedish snus’ dominates the market.
Image of portion snus. Author: Alekos. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Snus use differs from cigarette use because it does not involve the burning of tobacco and therefore avoids many of the risks associated with smoking.
Find out more about snus in our Briefing Paper here.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) are a range of products including patches, gums, lozenges and inhalers. NRT is a medically approved way to consume nicotine without tobacco and is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.