Assessment of the carcinogenic potential of heated tobacco emissions
Funded by the CNIB.

Tobacco use is a major public health problem, causing 8 million deaths each year worldwide. Exposure to cigarette smoke is responsible for nearly 30% of cancer deaths and 90% of lung cancers. Smoking cessation is now the only effective way to slow the progression of tobacco-related cancers. In recent years, new nicotine delivery devices have appeared on the market and rapidly gained popularity even before there was sufficient scientific evidence of their safety for users. This is the case with electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and heated tobacco systems (HTP), which are said to be less harmful than cigarettes due to the absence of tobacco combustion. However, most of the toxicological testing for heated tobacco has been carried out by the tobacco industry itself. Therefore, the authorities urgently need further independent scientific investigations into the potential toxicity of heated tobacco in order to be able to regulate these products in the future.

Our preliminary results from a seed project show that HTP emits fewer harmful compounds than cigarettes. But HTP emissions still contain carcinogenic compounds and their amounts are higher than in e-cigarette emissions. In addition, HTP aerosols exhibit reduced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity relative to cigarette smoke but superior to that of e-cig aerosols in Beas-2B human bronchial epithelial cells. Surprisingly, cigarette smoke does not induce histone modulation or DNA methylation in acutely exposed cells.

Our new project aims to assess the carcinogenic potential of heated tobacco emissions through two approaches: (i) an in vivo carcinogenesis study in a mouse model with repeated exposures of heated tobacco, and (ii) an in vitro study in human lung cells to better understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the carcinogenesis processes related to novel tobacco products.

This project should provide relevant and independent information on the carcinogenic potential of heated tobacco emissions and thus contribute to a better risk assessment of these new tobacco products by health agencies.


Download the posters of the project:

Poster 1 – “Comparison of the in vivo genotoxicity of electronic and conventional cigarettes aerosols after subacute, subchronic and chronic exposures
Poster 2 – “Comparison of cytotoxic, genotoxic and epigenetic effects of heated tobacco product, electronic cigarette and conventional cigarette emissions in human bronchial epithelial cells