Every year, thousands of people die in around the world as a consequence of smoking, and many more suffer from debilitating smoking-related diseases. Combustible cigarettes not only harm lives but the economy as well.
For adult smokers who do not quit, the opportunity to switch to scientifically substantiated, less harmful alternatives has the potential to accelerate the decline in the number of people smoking cigarettes. This is the principle of tobacco harm reduction.
While many people have stopped smoking cigarettes due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, a significant number have turned to less-harmful alternatives.
With the right regulatory encouragement, support from civil society, and the full embrace of science, I believe it is possible for the public’s call to be answered and for cigarette sales to be a thing of the past in many countries within a decade to a decade and a half.
Research released by Phillip Morris International (PMI) in March this year revealed there is public appetite for a better approach to reducing the societal harm caused by cigarettes. According to the research, those surveyed said reducing smoking rates remains an important public health issue, with a majority believing it is important for governments to dedicate time and resources to achieving this goal. More information about the research can be found here.
In several countries, the use of regulated novel nicotine and tobacco products is seen as an appropriate alternative for smokers who do not quit, and switching to those products is encouraged by public health bodies.
Dr Moira Gilchrist, Vice President, Strategic & Scientific Communications, PMI, says, “A new international survey, commissioned by PMI and conducted by research firm Povaddo, revealed that approximately eight in 10 adult smokers (76 per cent) would be more likely to consider switching to alternative products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products if they had clarity on how these products differ from cigarettes and the science that supports them. Yet almost half of the smokers (43 per cent) among those who have seen, read, or heard something about these products in the past six months say they have received conflicting or unclear information.”
Smoking cigarettes is harmful and causes serious diseases. So, there is no doubt that the best thing is to never start.
“Smoke-free products can play an important role in lowering smoking rates,” says Jacek Olczak, Chief Executive Officer at PMI. “With the right regulatory encouragement, support from civil society, and the full embrace of science, I believe it is possible for the public’s call to be answered and for cigarette sales to be a thing of the past in many countries within a decade to a decade and a half.”
The company has been vocal in how it is changing—evolving from a cigarette manufacturer to a science- and technology-led company, fundamentally transforming its business to deliver on PMI’s vision of a smoke-free future.
Dr Gizelle Baker, Director Global Scientific Engagement, PMI, says that there is significant scientific evidence that prove alternatives to cigarettes are less harmful for existing smokers. She also states that smoking in general should be discouraged for young and non-smokers. “Smoking cigarettes is harmful and causes serious diseases. So, there is no doubt that the best thing is to never start, and for smokers to quit tobacco and nicotine use altogether. Governments, the public health community, doctors and health care providers should therefore continue to encourage cessation and discourage initiation”.
PMI states in its report that in 2020, 76 per cent of its commercial expenditure was dedicated to smoke-free products and it had invested US $495 million in R&D expenditures, nearly 100 per cent of which was dedicated to smoke-free products. The company has also said its ambition is that more than half of its net revenues will come from smoke-free products in 2025.
Despite decades of information campaigns and stricter regulations, the World Health Organisation predicts that by 2025 there will be approximately the same number of smokers of today, i.e., over 1 billion globally, and with 9 million in the GCC. In their report, PMI said that many people were receiving conflicting information about cigarette alternatives.
Dr Gilchrist adds that PMI’s work is prioritising science to encourage people to quit cigarettes. “Scientific evidence and transparency remain our strongest tools to achieve this and enable people to make informed decisions. The men and women who continue to smoke deserve nothing less.”
This article is sponsored by Philip Morris Management Services (ME)