If you have not heard of heat not burning tobacco, you are not alone. Today, John W. Ayers, an associate professor at the San Diego State University Institute of Public Health, published in the journal "Public Science in the Public Library of Science" A new study shows that this new method of tobacco consumption is ready for explosive growth.
What is hot non-burning tobacco?
This is one of the newest tobacco products on the market, using battery power to heat tobacco leaves to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius) to produce an inhalable tobacco aerosol.
Hot non-burning tobacco is introduced into markets around the world, attracting trendy or potentially health-conscious consumers," Els said. In May, the first non-burning device entered the US Food and Drug Administration's approval process.
Because non-burning tobacco products are only sold in a handful of places in the world, little is known about their popular appeal and their prices in future markets such as the United States. Are tobacco control leaders worried about this potential new fashion?
Els and his colleagues turned to Google search trends to understand the appeal of the device in Japan, the first country to be sold nationwide. Commonly used devices are Japan Tobacco's "Ploom Technology" released in March 2016, Philip Morris International's "iQoS" released in April 2016, and British American Tobacco released in December 2016. The group’s focus is on Internet search hotspots that don’t burn tobacco, including generic terms and major brands, and analyze their relative popularity from 2015 to August 2017.
In Japan, in the first year of 2015, the total number of people who inquired about heat not burning increased by 1426%. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of queries increased by 2956%. Predictions based on observed trends indicate that in 2018, heat-not-burn queries will continue to grow at the same rate.
"Non-combustible products have quickly become crazy popular," said study co-author Mark Dredze, who is a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University. Two years ago, Japan did not inquire about heat-not-burning tobacco at all, but now there are between 59 and 7.5 million per month.
In addition, the team found that the interest in Heat Not Burn Japanese Tobacco has grown more rapidly than the interest in e-cigarettes in the past. This shows that heat-not-burn tobacco is a new market, and its popularity may even surpass e-cigarettes.
Public health challenge
Els said that millions of people look for heat-not-burn tobacco in Japan every month, and as the product enters new markets, demand will surge globally. It is unclear if the search translates into actual demand, he said, but previous research by the e-cigarette team predicted the eventual rise of e-cigarettes (vaping).
Joanna Cohen, a teacher at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control, added that many problems still exist with regard to the potential harm of the product. Given that heat-not-burn tobacco is a tobacco product, all existing policies that protect the public against other tobacco products should be implemented.
Els concluded that it is necessary for tobacco control leaders to actively respond to the potential demand for these new products.
"Tobacco control is at a new crossroads," he said. "Leaders can respond reasonably to these new data and set the charter for them by formulating a charter or waiting for the big tobacco company.