Research at RIVM aims to support global policymaking and enforcement of tobacco regulation. It comprises the attractive, addictive and toxic properties of tobacco and nicotine products (TNP, such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches). Product composition, user behaviour and sensory perception, risk communication, risk assessment, and policy advice are areas of interest.

Tobacco products are attractive by design, which stimulates the initiation of tobacco product use, especially for young people. They are also addictive, which stimulates the continuation of use. Tobacco products are highly toxic and smoking remains the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, even in countries with extensive tobacco control measures. Furthermore, the tobacco products market is highly dynamic. On a regular basis, new tobacco and related products are introduced on the consumer market which need to be scientifically assessed.

Our vision for tobacco control and product regulation

RIVM envisages a world where nobody has to suffer the devastating consequences of tobacco and nicotine product use. We endorse preventing initiation, and facilitating cessation of tobacco use. In addition, we believe that regulating tobacco products’ contents, emissions, and design characteristics is important to lower their attractiveness, addictiveness and toxicity. RIVM provides the scientific base for tobacco product regulation by performing research on the attractive, addictive, and toxic properties of tobacco and nicotine products. We also inform the public about product characteristics and their potential health consequences.

Regulatory context

Product regulation research at RIVM is related to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and to the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD, 2014/40/EU European Union (European Union)) . The Netherlands is one of the signatories of the FCTC. This treaty recognises the need for tobacco product regulation in articles 9 and 10, in addition to preventing initiation, promoting cessation, and protecting the public from exposure to second-hand smoke. More specifically, FCTC Articles 9 and 10 propose that parties take measures to reduce the toxicity, addictiveness, and attractiveness of tobacco products. Here, regulating and disclosing information on tobacco products’ contents, emissions and design characteristic is key. The European TPD aims to regulate tobacco as well as related products such as e-cigarettes. This includes regulating the ingredients and emissions of tobacco and nicotine products.

Research to support global policy-making and enforcement

RIVM is a leading organisation in the field of tobacco regulatory science, both nationally and internationally. RIVM provides advice to the national government, the EU, and WHO.

RIVM participates in many European tobacco control initiatives, for example by:
- being a member of the EU Independent Advisory Panel on characterising flavours in tobacco products
- contributing to SCHEER Opinions on tobacco and nicotine products
- acting as work package leader in the EU Joint Action on Tobacco Control.

- proudly hosts a Collaborating Centre for tobacco product regulation and control
- is a member of Tobacco Laboratory Network (TobLabNet) as lead lab and of the steering committee
- is a member of the Global Tobacco Regulators Forum (GTRF) steering committee
- advises the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) by writing background papers.

At a national level, RIVM’s main commissioners are the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS, policy making) and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA, enforcement).

No tobacco industry interference

RIVM ensures that the tobacco industry has no influence, directly or indirectly, on the research and enforcement-supporting tasks of RIVM. This is in line with Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, which calls on parties to protect public health policies from the tobacco industry’s commercial and other vested interests. This also means that RIVM is not (and will not become) a member of committees in which the tobacco industry has a major influence. RIVM is an organisation committed to public health, which is incompatible with the interests of the tobacco industry. In 2018, RIVM withdrew from the NEN/CEN/ISO committees for tobacco and e-cigarettes due to the significant influence of the tobacco industry within these committees.