Non-combustible alternatives: what’s in it for a smoker? | By Adnan Farooq


Non-combustible alternatives: what’s in it for a smoker?

Smokers have been at the center of attention of public health experts and policymakers for the longest time.

According to the WHO, with more than 8 million people losing their lives every year around the world due to smoking, it is only right to take immediate action against the crisis and devise a robust strategy to address this public health threat. .

From 1964 report of the Surgeon General that first identified the impact of cigarettes on human health at length to studies identifying the specific elements of a cigarette behind each of the impact, all these findings have proven to be a turning point in the history of smoking as it helped understand the pressing issue at hand, consequently setting the groundwork for the adequate response.

While at all times, the most effective response against the smoking epidemic has been to quit cigarettes completely, the prevalent global trend of smoking shows that only 3–12% of smokers areactually able to quit smoking completely. Thus, for the adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, the latest breakthrough in the field has now emerged in the form of a new category of products that are smoke-free and provide a less-harmful alternativ e to smokers who are unable to quit cigarettes. These alternatives, commonly known as non-combustible alternatives, are designed as such that they reduce the negative health impacts otherwise inflicted by cigarettes while giving smokers the same sense of ritual and feel so they can easily switch from cigarettes to these reduced-risk alternatives.

The specific constituents of a cigarette that are harmful to human health are found in the smoke that is emitted from cigarettes upon the burning of tobacco. Around 6000 chemicals are released through this burning process, out of which, around 100 chemicals have been identified as potential causes of smoking-related diseases including lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The same smoke also contains nicotine which is associated with the pleasure smokers experience in smoking. However, while nicotine is not risk-free, it is not the main villain public health experts are after, instead, it is the burning of tobacco that produces smoke and related toxins that cause majority of diseases.. Keeping this in mind, the non-combustible alternatives eliminate the process of burning, thus eliminating the emission of smoke and consequently eliminating the release of toxic chemicals contained within.

A recent study conducted by the University of Dundee for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) on e-cigarettes, a type of non-combustible alternative, showed that people who switched to these alternatives from cigarettes showed a remarkable improvement in their blood vessel health within one month compared to those who continued to smoke cigarettes. It also highlighted that the group who switched to e-cigarettes were halfway towards achieving the blood vessel health of healthy non-smokers!

Recently, the US FDA has also authorized the sale of one type of e-cigarette in the US for its potential to help smokers switch to less harmful alternative. Heated Tobacco Product (HTP), another type of smokeless alternative, has also been authorized to be marketed as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product, citing that it can help adult smokers transition away from cigarettes and reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals, but only if they switch completely.

Quoting independent researches on Heated-Tobacco Products, Dave Cross, physicist and a writer associated with the Planet of the Vapes (UK), said, “HTPs reduce the exposure to toxicants and carcinogens when compared to cigarette smoking.” –

In light of these scientifically substantiated findings supporting the reduced-risk aspect of these products and science based evidence from countries like the US, UK, and Japanshow a marked decline in cigarette sales with the introduction of non-combustible alternatives in the market, cigarette substitution with low-risk products appears to be a promising path. By ensuring adequate consumer awareness through providing scientifically-backed information from credible sourcesand regulating non-combustible alternatives as potentially less harmful alternatives, Pakistan can also enable its smokers to opt for better health.


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