8. What further research might be needed?
The SCENIHR’s deliberations highlighted a number of areas where more research is needed, or where recent technical advances could improve understanding.
Composition of smoke from tobacco products other than cigarettes.
Little is known about the smoke from cigars, cigarillos or waterpipes, which makes it harder to assess the potential of smoke constituents for making inhalation easier or increasing addiction.
The neurophysiology of tobacco addiction.
New studies could use neuroimaging to investigate whether nicotine by itself induces signals in the brains of dependent smokers which are different from non-smokers.
It would be possible to use neuroimaging, microelectrode arrays to record electrical signals in the brain, neurochemical or behavioural approaches to investigate the effect of tobacco additives on the addictiveness of nicotine.
The role of sugars in the addictiveness of tobacco products.
We know that high sugar content (from natural or added sugars) makes tobacco products more attractive. It is not clear whether it makes them more addictive. More human and animal studies are needed to test whether the aldehydes which are known to be produced from burning sugars increase the addictiveness of tobacco.
It is suggested that innovative techniques, such as neuroimaging, are needed to assess attractiveness of tobacco products objectively.
Studies on brands preferred by new smokers and reasons for brand choice.
These might include studies of the relative addictive powers of popular UK brands which contain no additives compared with continental brands which contain many of them, and comparison of sugar content of different brands, their effect on aldehyde production, and how this affects addiction. In addition, more needs to be known about what makes a specific brand attractive to new smokers and trends in smoking, and starting smoking.
Many of these studies are expensive to do, and are unlikely to be carried out at ordinary public research laboratories. There is a need for European collaborative projects, or even for the creation of a European Institute for research on drugs of abuse.