J Korean Med Assoc.  2020 Feb;63(2):88-95. 10.5124/jkma.2020.63.2.88.

Evolution of tobacco products

  • 1National Tobacco Control Center, Korea Health Promotion Institute, Seoul, Korea. sklee@khealth.or.kr
  • 2Southern Gyeonggi-do Regional Smoking Cessation Center, Hallym University, Anyang, Korea.


Tobacco products are rapidly evolving. Since the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control came to effect in 2005, the parties of the treaty have been aiming to control tobacco use. Moreover, the social norm of smoking has changed. These changes have prompted the tobacco industry to evolve their products and business model. There have been several evolutions in tobacco products. Firstly, new tobacco products, such as electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products were introduced into markets that were previously dominated by conventional cigarettes. Thus, smokers are able to select alternative tobacco products. Secondly, new devices for tobacco use, including universal serial bus, smart watch, and car key devices, have been developed and released. These devices are popular among females and youth, who wish to hide their smoking behavior. Thirdly, nicotine, which is used in tobacco products, has also evolved. Typically, "˜free-base nicotine' has been the main form used in tobacco products, because it helps to deliver nicotine quickly to the smoker's brain. However, a new form of nicotine, "˜nicotine salt', is used in electronic cigarettes. It can deliver a more highly concentrated dose of nicotine to the smoker's brain. To regulate these evolving products, laws are required to prevent the easy access of new tobacco products in the Korean market and therefore, a new organization for monitoring the evolution of tobacco products is required. Additionally, we need to encourage young people and scholars to develop interest in tobacco product control, thus ensuring adequate regulation of new tobacco products.


Tobacco; Tobacco use; Tobacco products; Electronic nicotine delivery systems; Nicotine

MeSH Terms

Electronic Cigarettes
Hot Temperature
International Cooperation
Social Norms
Tobacco Industry
Tobacco Products*
Tobacco Use
World Health Organization


  • Figure 1 A) A tobacco advertisement in the 1970s showing that smoking is beneficial to females. (B) A tobacco advertisement in the 1980s. The advertisement did not describe the issue of inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke.

  • Figure 2 A novel tobacco product that looks like a smart watch (Uwell Amulet Pod System Watch Kit; Shenzhen UWELL Technology, Shenzhen, China).

  • Figure 3 Comparison between nicotine salt and freebase nicotine.


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