RIVM has ample expertise in scientific research on tobacco and nicotine products control. Since 2001, we conduct independent and objective tobacco research and provide scientific support on tobacco and nicotine products regulation. Our research and policy advice concern the composition and attractive, addicitive and toxic properties of tobacco and nicotine products, and their impact on human health, with a focus on (flavouring) ingredients.

With our expertise we support WHO on:

Tobacco product control

Tobacco product control refers to a range of comprehensive measures to protect people from the effects of tobacco consumption and second-hand tobacco smoke. For example, the use of ingredients and other design features can increase the attractiveness of TNP and contribute to making it easier for people to start and continue smoking. Flavouring agents which provide a sweet taste can mask the bitterness of nicotine, while cooling agents and filter ventilation facilitate smoke inhalation. The WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) drafts evidence-based recommendations on regulating TNP. These recommendations are published in Technical Report Series (TRS). They help to fill knowledge gaps in tobacco and nicotine product regulation, as well as advise the WHO Director-General on product regulation in countries. RIVM supports TobReg by writing background papers based on our expertise.

Tobacco contents and emissions including flavourings (Article 9)

Tobacco and nicotine product (TNP) regulation requires measuring substances and research of the contents and emissions of TNP. Therefore, WHO Tobacco Laboratory Network TobLabNet was established as a global tobacco testing laboratory network crucial in advancing tobacco control. RIVM participates in TobLabNet since it hosted the first meeting in 2005 and is vice-chair since 2021. We support TobLabNet with contents and emissions testing of TNP and developing and validating the measurement methods, especially flavourings. We also assist WHO in providing training and support in testing and associated quality requirements, in particular to TobLabNet laboratories in countries with limited resources and capacity.

Product disclosure (article 10)

According to Article 10 of the FCTC, governments should require TNP manufacturers to disclose the composition of the products marketed in their country. In the European Union, manufacturers (and importers) of TNP are legally obliged to provide information about the composition and other properties of their products. RIVM discloses these product data on a website to inform the public. We also use the data to identify ingredients, assess their risk, and analyse product characteristics and trends therein. RIVM has more than twenty years of experience in the assessment of product data provided by the tobacco industry. We support WHO with the development of a global database for disclosure of information to the government and to the general public.

Novel Tobacco products

The tobacco products market is highly dynamic. On a regular basis, new tobacco and nicotine products are introduced on the consumer market which need to be scientifically assessed to inform policy making, regulation and public communication. For example, e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTP) and nicotine pouches. However, when such products appear on the market, little is known on their product composition, attractive, additive, and toxic properties. Thus, it is difficult to assess their potential health effects and predict their uptake and user groups. RIVM supports product testing and provides policy guidance to WHO, based on the test results and expertise in evaluating new products. This includes behavioural research on use, reasons for use and risk perception. RIVM is also the Lead laboratory for assessment of HTP emissions.