Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI)

WHO condemns misleading use of its name in marketing of heated tobacco products

9 February 2018

According to published statements, British American Tobacco (BAT) is launching a new heated tobacco product, “glo”. In materials promoting the launch of the product, including websites and point-of-sale advertising, BAT has made statements that could be incorrectly perceived as implying that the World Health Organization (WHO) is endorsing this product as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

BAT claims that the vapour formed by the heating process “contains around 90-95% less toxicants than the smoke in conventional cigarettes.” The company qualifies this claim in a footnote by stating:

This is a comparison between the smoke from combusted tobacco in a standard 3R4F reference cigarette (approximately 9mg tar), and the vapour from heated tobacco in gloTM, in terms of the nine types of harmful components which the World Health Organisation recommends to reduce. These qualities do not necessarily mean this product produces less adverse health effects than other tobacco products

Today, WHO clarifies that it is in no way endorsing BAT’s product nor the company’s claims concerning the product.

In a 2017 information sheet released by WHO on heated tobacco products (HTPs), WHO stated:

Currently, there is no evidence to demonstrate that HTPs are less harmful than conventional tobacco products. Some tobacco industry-funded studies have claimed that there are significant reductions in the formation of and exposure to harmful and potentially harmful constituents relative to standard cigarettes. However, there is currently no evidence to suggest that reduced exposure to these chemicals translates to reduced risk in humans. Therefore, additional independent studies will be required to substantiate claims of reduced risk/harm.

The only safe level of tobacco use is zero use. In this context, WHO condemns BAT’s misleading attempt to associate WHO with this tobacco product.