RIVM investigates the design of tobacco and nicotine products, including their chemical composition and that of their emissions. Information about the composition is used to perform risk analyses, to support product regulation and to inform the public. Analytical chemical techniques and product data submitted by manufacturers are used to obtain information on the composition of products.


Flavourings are added to nearly all TNP and increase their attractiveness. European and National regulations restrict the use of added flavours in cigarettes, RYO and e-cigarettes. To support policymakers and enforce regulations, RIVM studies the flavourings used in tobacco products and e-cigarettes by various analytical chemical and sensory methods, as well as using the manufacturer-submitted data in the EU-CEG database. Using this information we were able to identify the most prevalent flavourings present in different categories of e-liquid and waterpipe tobacco flavours. Moreover, RIVM was able to classify e-liquids into four flavour clusters based on their flavouring composition, i.e.: fresh/sweet, warm/sweet, fresh/cooling and non-sweet.

Nicotine salts

A relatively recent development is the increased popularity of ‘nicotine salts’ in e-cigarettes. Nicotine is more easily inhaled at high concentrations in this form than as freebase nicotine. This may increase the addictiveness and attractiveness of e-cigarettes. To support research and potential future product regulation of nicotine salts, RIVM has recently developed a tabletop-NMR based method to determine the protonation state of nicotine (i.e., whether it is present in salt or freebase form). 

Harmful chemicals

Tobacco- and nicotine products contain thousands of chemicals, many of which are harmful. Regulations can limit the harmful health effects of tobacco products by reducing the amounts of harmful chemicals in products. RIVM develops and implements analytical chemical methods for measuring the amounts of certain substances in tobacco- and nicotine products and their emissions.

Design characteristics

Product design can also influence the exposure of users to harmful and addictive substances in the emissions of tobacco and nicotine products.  For example, filter ventilation is known to dilute the smoke inhaled from a cigarette – leading to lower amounts of TNCO measured in machine smoking. However, smokers block the ventilation holes and compensate for the diluted smoke by adjusting their behaviour (e.g. taking larger puffs). Therefore, their intake of harmful substances remains high. RIVM has measured the TNCO levels of all filter cigarettes available on the Dutch market, using the WHO intense method. When using this method, the measured levels are more than 15 times higher than the levels measured with the legally prescribed ISO method.

Analytical chemical analyses

Analytical chemical techniques are used to obtain information on the composition of products. RIVM expertise is presented under topic Chemical analysis on Expertise & methods.

Product composition data

Product composition data submitted by manufacturers (EU European Union (European Union)-CEG data) are used to obtain information on the composition of products. RIVM expertise is presented under topic Statistical and big data analysis on Expertise & methods.