The results of in vitro genetic toxicology studies of sidestream cigarette smoke (SSCS) from cigarettes which heat but do not burn tobacco were compared to those of sidestream smoke from cigarettes which burn tobacco. SSCSs from 5 cigarettes were compared. Three of the cigarettes, the Kentucky reference research cigarette (1R4F), a commercially available ultra-low-tar brand (ULT) and a commercially available ultra-low-tar menthol brand (ULT-menthol) burn tobacco while two of the cigarettes, a regular (TEST) and a menthol (TEST-menthol) heat tobacco. SSCSs from all cigarettes were prepared by identical techniques, which involved collecting sidestream smoke particulate matter on Cambridge filter pads and combining the particulate matter with the vapor-phase materials collected by bubbling the smoke exiting the Cambridge pad through DMSO. The SSCSs obtained (equivalent to 0.4 cigarettes/ml DMSO) were evaluated at identical concentrations in an in vitro genetic toxicology test battery. SSCS from 1R4F, ULT and ULT-menthol cigarettes produced positive results in Ames bacterial strains TA98, TA100, TA1537 and TA1538 in the presence of metabolic activation (S9 from Aroclor-induced rat liver) but negative results in strain TA1535. In the absence of metabolic activation, 1R4F, ULT and ULT-menthol SSCSs were not significantly mutagenic. TEST and TEST-menthol SSCSs produced negative results in all 5 bacterial strains, both with and without metabolic activation. SSCS from 1R4F, ULT and ULT-menthol cigarettes produced positive results in the CHO chromosomal aberration assay and in the CHO sister-chromatid exchange assay both with and without metabolic activation while TEST and TEST-menthol SSCSs produced negative results in both assays, either with or without metabolic activation. The SSCSs from 1R4F, ULT and ULT-menthol cigarettes were weakly positive in inducing DNA repair in cultured rat hepatocytes while TEST and TEST-menthol SSCSs were negative in this assay. All 5 SSCSs were nonmutagenic in the CHO-HGPRT assay both with and without metabolic activation. SSCSs from the 1R4F, ULT and ULT-menthol cigarettes were cytotoxic in the CHO-HGPRT assay, both with and without metabolic activation, while TEST and TEST-menthol SSCSs were not cytotoxic under either condition. These results demonstrate that sidestream smoke from cigarettes which heat but do not burn tobacco (TEST and TEST-menthol) was neither genotoxic nor cytotoxic under conditions where sidestream smoke from cigarettes which burn tobacco (1R4F, ULT and ULT-menthol) was genotoxic and/or cytotoxic in a concentration-dependent manner.