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There are two types of non-combusted cigarettes currently allowed to be sold in the U.S. One product type, which has been on the U.S. market at various times since the 1990s, uses a carbon tip wrapped in glass fibers. The user lights the carbon tip, which heats the dried tobacco inside to a temperature that does not cause the product to create ash or burn down in size.
Another non-combusted cigarette that recently obtained FDA authorization in April 2019 consists of an electronic heating device and sticks made from dried tobacco wrapped in paper. The user places the stick into the electronic heating device, which pierces the stick with a glass-covered ceramic blade that heats the tobacco, creating an aerosol.
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There are a variety of products colloquially called heated tobacco products and heat-not-burn products that do not appear to fit easily into universally agreed upon product categories. Products currently sold in global markets may function in various ways. For example, these products heat to various temperatures, can contain dry, moist, or liquid tobacco ingredients, and appear in a wide variety of shapes.
For the FDA’s purposes, if a tobacco product meets the legal definition of a cigarette but the tobacco is not heated to a temperature high enough to cause combustion, the product would be currently categorized as a non-combusted cigarette and regulated as a cigarette. The types of heated tobacco products currently authorized for sale in the U.S. are all non-combusted cigarettes.
There is no safe tobacco product. Non-combusted cigarettes may help reduce the risk of tobacco-related harms for adult smokers who switch completely from combusted cigarettes, but all tobacco products can lead to nicotine addiction and contain toxic, cancer-causing chemicals that can cause serious health problems.