Race to Deliver Nicotine’s Punch, With Less Risk

Race to Deliver Nicotine’s Punch, With Less Risk

NEUCHATEL, Switzerland — Deep inside a modernist research center on the edge of a mountain lake here, automated smoking machines sample the future of nicotine.

Scientists at Philip Morris International are experimenting with ways to deliver nicotine — Big Tobacco’s addictive lifeblood — that are less hazardous than cigarettes but still pack the drug’s punch and smoking’s other pleasures. The smoking carousels, stuffed with burning cigarettes or glowing electronic devices, are among dozens of high-tech instruments being used.

By comparison, the type of vapor generated by e-cigarettes, experts say, is a less efficient carrier of nicotine than smoke. “There is more deposition in the mouth,” with vapor, said Jeffrey S. Gentry, the chief scientific officer of R.J. Reynolds, a division of Reynolds American.

A study published last year showed that one e-cigarette brand, Njoy, produced levels of nicotine in a user’s blood significantly lower than the amount produced by a cigarette like a Marlboro. As a result, e-cigarette users have frequently turned to larger devices known as vape pens that have bigger batteries that can produce more heat. But more heat to increase nicotine levels may also result in higher levels of toxins and carcinogens, experts say.

Tobacco companies have rushed to increase nicotine levels in their vapor devices.

About a year after Altria, which sells Marlboro, introduced the MarkTen e-cigarette brand, it increased the concentration of nicotine by about 65 percent. Blu eCigs, which is owned by Lorillard, has raised the nicotine output of its latest device by 50 percent through a variety of changes such as increasing its nicotine concentration and incorporating a larger battery to produce higher heat. Njoy, which only makes e-cigarettes, is using a pharmaceutical ingredient in a new version of its device that is supposed to increase vapor absorption in the lung and elevate nicotine delivery to about 70 percent of a cigarette, according to company data.

Last month, Philip Morris International began test marketing the first of these new devices, called iQOS, in Japan. The device has three components; a pocket-size charger, a heating element and a short stick containing tobacco and other ingredients. The tobacco sticks are heated to a point below combustion, producing an aerosol-like vapor that has about same amount of nicotine as a cigarette. The company plans to introduce another heat-not-burn device in 2016; the heating element of that device can be lit with a match, like a cigarette, but the tobacco stick does not burn.

Assuming positive results from the human studies, Philip Morris International says it expects to eventually apply to the Food and Drug Administration for agency support for a claim that iQOS poses a “modified risk” to smokers when compared with a cigarette. If the device is approved, Altria will market it in the United States. (Philip Morris International was once part of Altria and the companies have an agreement that allows them to sell each other’s products.)

R.J. Reynolds is poised to release Revo, a rebranded version of its heat-not-burn device originally called Eclipse and first marketed in 1996. Last year, a Vermont state judge ordered the cigarette maker to pay $8.3 million in fines after a finding that the company had misleadingly claimed in marketing that the device could lower a smoker’s risk of contracting cancer, emphysema and other diseases. Those claims were made before the F.D.A. gained regulatory oversight of tobacco-related health claims. A spokesman for R.J. Reynolds, David Howard, said it plans to initially claim only that Revo “offers less cigarette smoke smell and no ashes” when compared with a cigarette. He declined to say whether the company plans to eventually seek a modified health risk claim with the F.D.A. for Revo.

Despite the proliferation of cigarette alternatives, industry critics fear that Big Tobacco, given its mastery of nicotine, will manipulate drug levels in new devices so that smokers end up using them, not as quitting aids, but as a way to get nicotine where smoking is prohibited. Public health experts also fear the devices will create a new generation of nicotine addicts.

Cigarette makers dismiss such suggestions. But the newest nicotine delivery devices hitting the market suggest the shape of things to come. Several years ago, Philip Morris International bought the rights to a novel form of inhalable nicotine. The idea was developed by outside researchers including Dr. Jed Rose of Duke University, the an inventor of the nicotine skin patch.

In the past, smoking replacement products like gums and patches have generally failed because they released nicotine too slowly or in amounts too low to satisfy smokers. And on one point, both cigarette industry executives and their critics appear to agree. If the newest alternative products are to succeed from both a financial and a public health standpoint, they will have to deliver nicotine at levels comparable to a cigarette.

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/health/race-to-deliver-nicotine%E2%80%99s-punch-with-less-risk/ar-BBhcyRm?srcref=rss