RIVM collaborates in joint PhD projects with Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and Maastricht University on tobacco. Currently, two PhD students are working on their projects.

The role of flavourings and flavours in tobacco and nicotine products on drug attractiveness and addiction in different target groups

In collaboration with the chair group Sensory Science and Eating Behaviour of Wageningen University and Research (WUR) this PhD project assesses the influence of flavour on the consumer appeal of various kinds of tobacco and nicotine products (TNP). The project aims to address important knowledge gaps regarding the role of flavours in TNP appeal, and to generalise findings across the different types of TNP (e-cigarettes, HTP, waterpipe tobacco, nicotine pouches, cigars and cigarillos). 
To achieve the project aims, various research methods are applied to answer specified research questions. Examples include:

  • A literature analysis will be performed to study whether flavour appeal is the same for the various types of TNP. Assuming that flavour availability is an indicator of flavour appeal, RIVM will generate flavour wheels in order to compare the variety of available flavour between the different types of products.
  • To investigate how flavour liking is influenced by context (vaping or eating), taste modality (sweet or savoury) and target group (smokers or non-smokers), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) will be applied to study how neural processing of flavours is influenced by these factors.


Comparison of emission composition and health effects of Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs) with conventional combustible cigarettes

In collaboration with the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of Maastricht University (UM), this project aims to unravel emission composition and health effects of newly developed tobacco products, such as Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs).
The aims of this project will be addressed as follows:

  • Literature research will be performed to determine the current state of knowledge regarding emission composition and health effects of various commercially available HTPs.
  • A wide range of toxicants will be quantified in the emissions of commercially available HTPs and compared with the levels in conventional cigarettes. Furthermore, emissions will be collected applying several puffing regimes, to determine the specific effect of different smoking parameters (puff volume, puff duration and puff frequency) on emission magnitude.
  • Relevant in vitro cell models (A549, BEAS-2B, primary bronchial epithelial cells) will be exposed to emissions from HTPs and conventional cigarettes, with the aim of comparing their toxicological potential. The toxicological impacts of the different products will be assessed by evaluating their cytotoxic potential and by measuring mitochondrial activity and cell respiration, as well as reactive oxygen species (ROS) release in the culture medium. Moreover, the DNA damage capacity induced by the different products will be measured and compared with the Comet Assay.
  • In a human study, the puffing topography of HTP consumers will be measured to show how they consume such products and whether their smoking behaviours differ from cigarette users. Secondly, buccal swaps will be collected from the participants to assess the DNA damage in their buccal cells, by means of the Comet Assay. Furthermore, toxicological effects of HTPs and conventional cigarettes will be investigated by measuring and comparing blood pressure and heart rate of the participants.