Cytotoxic effects of heated tobacco products (HTP) on human bronchial epithelial cells

Tob Control. 2018 Nov;27(Suppl 1):s26-s29. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2018-054317. Epub 2018 Sep 5.


Background: Heated tobacco product(s) (HTP), also called heat-not-burn products, are a re-emerging class of tobacco products that purport to reduce health risk compared with smoking combustible tobacco products. This study examined the potential toxic effects of inhaling emissions from an HTP in comparison with electronic and combustible tobacco cigarettes.

Methods: Inhalation toxicity of HTP (IQOS; tobacco flavour), e-cigarette (MarkTen; tobacco flavour) and tobacco cigarette (Marlboro Red) was examined in vitro using an air-liquid interface with human bronchial epithelial cells (H292). Cells were exposed directly to 55 puffs from the e-cigarette, 12 puffs from the HTP and 8 puffs from the tobacco cigarette to equilibrate nicotine delivery to the cells across products. Cytotoxicity was measured using neutral red uptake and trypan blue assays. Cytotoxic effects of each tested product (HTP, e-cigarette and tobacco cigarette) were compared with an air control. Release of inflammatory markers (cytokines) was measured using ELISA.

Results: The HTP showed higher cytotoxicity compared with the air controls using the neutral red assay. The HTP also showed higher cytotoxicity than the e-cigarette, but lower cytotoxicity than the combustible cigarettes using the same assay. A significant increase in cytokines levels, compared with air controls, was observed postexposure to tobacco smoke but not to emissions from HTP or e-cigarette aerosol.

Discussion: Using limited cytotoxic measures, the HTP showed reduced cytotoxicity relative to a combustible cigarette but higher toxicity than an e-cigarette. More comprehensive testing is needed to determine long-term effects of inhaling emissions from HTP.

Keywords: nicotine; non-cigarette tobacco products; toxicology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bronchi
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Tobacco Products / adverse effects*


  • Cytokines
  • Smoke