Product regulation, such as requiring testing and/or reporting of the content and emissions of tobacco products, is a relatively novel area of tobacco regulation. This is likely to change. Under Articles 9 and 10 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Parties to the Convention are encouraged to adopt measures to implement, respectively, testing/measuring of tobacco products and disclosure of emissions and contents.
While product regulation is still in its infancy, many adult consumers may be familiar with some aspects of tobacco products that are already regulated in many countries. These include:
- measuring and reporting tar, nicotine, and/or carbon monoxide yields in cigarette smoke (most countries);
- ceilings on tar, nicotine, and/or carbon monoxide yields in cigarette smoke (European Union member states plus approximately 50 other countries);
- measuring and reporting to governments certain smoke emissions (chemicals) associated with tobacco-related diseases (Brazil, Canada, Taiwan);
- limiting ingredients permitted in tobacco and/or other components in cigarettes or other tobacco products (e.g. Canada, France, U.K. and Germany); and
- standards for reduced cigarette ignition propensity (Australia, Canada and European Union member states).
A major challenge for regulators in establishing product regulations is the lack of commonly accepted scientific standards and test methods. For example, different opinions exist as to which chemicals in smoke should be regulated and the appropriate test methods to measure them. In 2007, the FCTC’s Conference of Parties Working Group on product regulation stated that it might take many years to develop analytical methods to measure many of the chemicals in smoke that have been associated with tobacco-related diseases.
Public health groups including WHO’s Scientific Advisory Group (TobReg), WHO’s Tobacco Laboratory Network (TobLabNet), tobacco industry scientists (including our own), and independent scientists are conducting research on these important issues.
Our vision for regulation based on harm reduction has always included product regulation as a central component. Regulating the contents and emissions of conventional cigarettes and other tobacco products, like fine-cut tobacco, is an important step in developing an understanding of tobacco products in general and, most important, toward the regulation of reduced-risk tobacco products. While the scientific foundation for product regulation has yet to be fully developed, including consensus on valid test methods, our hope is that regulations can be developed and implemented in the short term.
We support the regulation (requiring testing, reporting, and/or performance standards) of ingredients, smoke emissions, tobacco leaf content, packaging materials migrants, product design, and other aspects of tobacco products. We agree that it is critical to resolve the gaps in scientific standards and methods. We also believe that it would be premature to impose performance standards without adequate understanding of the potential public health effects and any adverse consequences.
While it is our view that there is, at this time, little that can be done to substantially reduce the risk of current conventional lit-end cigarettes, we do not oppose modifications to conventional products as long as they are feasible and do not render the product unacceptable to adult consumers, and provided that there is a rational basis for the proposed modification. For example, we have worked diligently to reduce tobacco-specific nitrosamines in Virginia tobacco by educating tobacco growers worldwide on alternative ways to cure the tobacco. As a result, TSNA levels in Virginia tobacco have dropped substantially. Although such reductions did not, in our view, reduce the risk of tobacco-related disease, we will continue to work on reducing TSNAs where feasible.
One important factor that could lead to the resolution of gaps in knowledge and the impact of regulation is coordination between regulators and tobacco companies. Engagement with tobacco companies is especially important for product regulation, because our technical expertise can provide crucial insight and guidance.