How to Keep Up with the Scientific Literature on Alternative Tobacco Products: What Clients Want to Know

Posted by on November 2, 2020

This post discusses some of the most frequent questions we receive from our clients related to keeping track of the flood of emerging scientific information emerging on alternative tobacco products, such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), tobacco-free nicotine products, heated, and smokeless tobacco products.

Keeping Up with the E-Cigarette, Heated Tobacco, and Smokeless Tobacco Literature


1.    Why do I need to stay up to date on the literature?

As we previously noted, e-cigarette, heated tobacco, and smokeless tobacco products continue to generate enormous interest across a spectrum of stakeholders, including defense and plaintiff’s attorneys, manufacturers, and regulators. To effectively maximize opportunities and reduce risk, stakeholders should be familiar and up-to-date on the literature relevant to the safety and effectiveness of these products.

While individual members of a team may each read their own headlines and be familiar with the key scientific studies, it is our experience that many individuals and teams are left uneasy about what additional literature they might have missed. When teams are all on the same page and up-to-date on the latest science, they can quickly adjust their strategies to adapt to the new information to act on potential opportunities and/or risks. Only by being aware of all of the latest science related to alternative tobacco products can a stakeholder achieve a competitive edge, whether in the courtroom or the marketplace.

2.    Which literature databases are the most important?

 PubMed®, which comprises more than 30 million biomedical literature citations from MEDLINE, is certainly one of the most important when it comes to alternative tobacco products. However, a limitation of this database is that it does not index all scientific journals or other potentially important sources of scientific information (e.g., regulatory bodies, grey literature). We recommend setting up a search strategy the leverages multiple databases that maximizes the chances for hitting all of the literature relevant to your needs. Our research shows that over the past two years, there have been ~30-40 new articles per week on alternative tobacco products (e-cigarettes, tobacco-free nicotine products, heated tobacco, smokeless tobacco).

3.    Can I do this myself?

Absolutely. The key is to be systematic, and ideally, to have an individual dedicated to distributing the new information to all team members so that everyone is on the same page. This reduces the possibility that multiple people are engaging in redundant activities which is inefficient and a poor use of resources. Search strategies should be broad enough to include all literature of relevance and not exclude anything of importance. But the broad search results then need to be filtered and whittled down so that the volume is not overwhelming and only the most relevant literature rises to the top.

Having a dedicated and systematic process can go a long way to ensure that a team is not spending too much time searching for and organizing literature, which can detract from the task of actually reading and understanding the literature and its potential impact on litigation or business activities.

4.    How does ISS keep its pulse on the newest literature?

We use a mix of subject matter experts (humans) coupled with machine learning technology. Our subject matter experts make the final selections guided by our AI technology ensuring that the literature is organized and categorized appropriately in a cloud-based, and easily searchable database.

We also provide weekly email alerts to our clients to ensure that the entire team is fully up-to-date on the latest literature from the previous week.

This end-to-end process has been refined over the years to make sure we not only capture all of the relevant literature, but also that our entire team has their pulse on the latest scientific literature.

5.    How can you possibly organize such a huge body of literature that is constantly changing?

As mentioned above, a disciplined and systematic approach goes a long way to keep an evolving and massive body of literature organized and manageable. We also designate tags to every piece of literature so that similar articles can be grouped and searched.

If you are frustrated with your current scientific literature search strategy (on vaping/e-cigarettes or any scientific topic for that matter), get in touch and learn how we can collaborate to save you valuable time and make sure you keep your pulse on the latest scientific findings.


Get in touch to learn more about how we help a variety of clients stay current on the science related to a specific topic area.

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