At PMI, we have come a long way since our inception as a manufacturer of cigarettes. For over 20 years, we’ve been working on developing and scientifically assessing less harmful alternatives to continued cigarette smoking that do not create smoke, because they do not combust tobacco.
Today, our smoke-free portfolio includes heated tobacco products, vapor, and oral nicotine products, at various stages of development, assessment, and commercialization.
Our product development is based on the elimination of combustion via tobacco heating and other innovative systems, which we believe are the most promising path to providing better consumer choice for those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke. We recognize that no single product will appeal to all adult smokers. Therefore, our approach is to develop a variety of smoke-free products, so that adults who would otherwise continue to smoke can find a suitable alternative that allows them to fully switch.
We have several heated tobacco products (HTPs) in our portfolio. Our HTPs, also known as tobacco heating systems and heat-not-burn products, heat the tobacco to release a nicotine-containing tobacco aerosol but without burning the tobacco. Because tobacco is heated and not burned there is no smoke, and therefore the levels of harmful chemicals in the generated aerosols are significantly reduced compared to cigarette smoke. HTPs, though, are not risk free, and provide nicotine, which is addictive.
Initial generations of our HTPs use blade heating technology, and these are designed to be used with specific heated tobacco units. The latest addition to our HTP devices, uses induction to heat tobacco. These devices also use new specifically designed heated tobacco units. Despite the change in heating technology, the aerosol generated by our induction heating device remains comparable to the previous versions.
Our blade HTPs are available in two versions. The first version has three main components—a heated tobacco unit, a holder, and a charger. The second version is an integrated product that combines the holder and charger and allows multiple uses without recharging the battery. Both products contain an electronic system that heats the tobacco within a precisely controlled temperature range to avoid burning the tobacco. The system uses a heating blade, which acts as both a heater and temperature sensor.
When the heated tobacco unit is inserted into the tobacco holder, the heating blade is embedded in the tobacco. Once turned on, the heating blade heats the tobacco while also monitoring its temperature to ensure consistent taste and avoid burning.
The integrated version of our HTP works the same way. It combines the holder and charger into a single unit that must be charged after at least 10 uses. Unlike the original HTP, the integrated design allows for consecutive uses.
Our induction HTPs use induction rather than a blade to heat tobacco. This means there is no direct contact between the electronics and the heating element. The induction system relies on specially designed heated tobacco units, each with their own internal heating element at their core.
We have shown through testing our tobacco heating system, that if tobacco is heated above 250 °C, similar amounts of nicotine as those found in cigarette smoke, can be released. Keeping the temperature low enough, however, means the tobacco is not burned and the levels of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals generated and, therefore, inhaled are significantly reduced. Our studies have shown an average reduction of 90 to 95% in the levels of harmful and potentially harmful constituents (HPHCs) measured in the aerosol of our HTPs, compared to those found in the smoke of a standard research reference cigarette (3R4F).
Heating tobacco is just one possibility in developing alternatives to continued cigarette smoking. We are also developing products that contain nicotine but not tobacco. Instead of heating tobacco to release tobacco flavors and nicotine, our e-vapor and nicotine-based electronics-free products use nicotine that is extracted from tobacco leaves. Our products without tobacco produce a nicotine-containing vapor. They do this in distinctly different ways.
Our portfolio includes several next generation e-vapor products, which are battery-powered devices that produce an aerosol by vaporizing a nicotine-containing liquid. Our e-vapor products comprise devices using current generation technology and our new e-vapor mesh technology that addresses certain challenges presented by some e-vapor products currently on the market.
Our MESH vaping system (MVS) products are designed to improve upon traditional wick and coil designs and ensure the consistency and quality of the generated aerosol. They use closed-system e-liquid pods to prevent tampering and liquid leakage. The mouthpiece and a heating element are built into each replaceable pod to maintain product hygiene. The heating element is a metallic woven mesh with tiny holes to heat the pre-filled pre-sealed pod. Three main elements were further developed to make our latest e-vapor product a more acceptable smoke-free alternative: the mesh technology, the puff activated heating, and the low liquid detection system.
We explored different technologies to mechanically produce a nicotine-containing aerosol without tobacco, combustion, or heating. The result is the nicotine salts product or NSP. This is a novel product that is composed of two parts: a consumable that contains a highly soluble encapsulated nicotine powder, and a non-electronic device that activates it. Once a consumable is inserted into the mechanical device, the nicotine powder is aerosolized and inhaled solely through the power of breath.
No single product will address all adult smokers’ or nicotine users’ individual preferences. A range of alternatives is key to helping adults who otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes. Instead of producing an aerosol that is inhaled, these products are placed under the lip so that nicotine can be absorbed via the mouth. Our non-inhalable products include oral tobacco products, and oral nicotine products.
We have come a long way and are committed to further developing and scientifically substantiating innovative products that will one day replace cigarettes and deliver a smoke-free future. Explore our findings on our smoke-free products.
The Scientific Update magazine is focused on PMI's research and development efforts, milestone studies, industry regulations, and more. View the latest issue, or read the articles online.