By delivering science-backed better alternatives to continued smoking, PMI is embracing a smoke-free future.
“Embracing science for better” describes both society’s attitude toward critical issues and PMI’s ambitions for a world without cigarettes. Facts and science, once a backdrop, are taking the lead in helping society understand and meet global challenges. Science is helping us build better, do better, and be better as we advance toward a smoke-free future. The public called for change and PMI is delivering it.
We’re delivering better choices
Smoke-free alternatives that are better than continued smoking exist. Choice is something that should be valued and protected. It is based on giving people accurate information, access to options, and the right to act upon their choice.
André Calantzopoulos, CEO, Philip Morris International, shares his thoughts on embracing the opportunity that science has provided to deliver a smoke-free future.
"Transparency is the gateway to a better future"
Moira Gilchrist, PMI’s VP, Strategic and Scientific Communications, says that transparency is a necessity if we are to achieve a smoke-free future.
Some people may think Philip Morris International (PMI) is only a cigarette company. But in 2016, the company announced its new purpose: to deliver a smoke-free future by focusing its resources on developing and scientifically substantiating smoke free products that are a better choice for those adults around the world who would otherwise continue to smoke, with the aim of completely replacing cigarettes as soon as possible. Since then, the company has disrupted its business from the inside out, and is leading the industry with its unprecedented transformation. Earlier this year, the company’s Board of Directors re-affirmed PMI’s commitment to achieving a smoke-free future in the letter to shareholders contained within their 2020 Proxy Statement.
Quitting tobacco- and nicotine-containing products altogether is the best choice any smoker can make. But many don’t. For this large population of adult smokers, advances in science and technology have enabled the development of smoke-free alternatives that can be a better choice than continued smoking.
A smoke-free future—and with it the opportunity to improve public health—can only be achieved together with governments and the support of civil society. Sensible regulation of these products is key. It should be based on scientific evidence rather than ideology, on facts rather than fiction, and on truth rather than opinion. Regulation needs to strike the right balance. This means it needs to recognize the role of smoke-free alternatives in helping those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes, while protecting youth and non-smokers.
A need for science at the heart of decision-making
People rely on science for their day-to-day decisions, and they expect their governments to do the same when drawing up policies. Earlier this year, PMI commissioned an online survey by independent research firm Povvado. It was completed by 19,100 adults across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa between June and July 2020. Our intention? To better understand people’s interest in science, their access to and understanding of scientific information, and how they rate various sources of scientific knowledge. We published the results in our white paper “In Support of the Primacy of Science.”
Truth over hearsay
The white paper illustrates the public’s confidence and interest in science. For example, 77 percent were hopeful that advances in science will ultimately deliver solutions for many of the world’s most pressing problems. 79 percent of respondents said that when they heard about a new scientific development or study, they typically sought out more in-depth information or watched out for other reports.
However, almost half of the respondents stated that they found it difficult to access reliable information about scientific developments and relevant studies, including 10 percent who found it very difficult. And 41 percent thought their government was doing a poor job in communicating unbiased and reliable information about the latest scientific developments.
The role of governments
The vast majority of those surveyed (84 percent) wanted their government to take the latest scientific evidence into account when making policy. But not all respondents were convinced this is currently the case.
Only 51 percent believed their government was doing a good job of ensuring that science informed its decision-making process.
Businesses must also be led by science
When it comes to the role businesses play in the application of science, 85 percent of adults agree that companies should develop science-based solutions to some of the biggest problems facing society today, and nine out of 10 people expect companies to continually research and innovate to improve their product in the interest of public health.
Smoke explained: The problem with burning
It’s well known that cigarette smoking is harmful and can lead to smoking-related diseases. What’s not so well known is that the main problem is the smoke itself. When a cigarette is lit, it burns away the tobacco and paper of a cigarette, and creates smoke that contains flavors from the tobacco blend, as well as nicotine that exists naturally in tobacco leaves. This burning process also produces approximately 6,000 chemicals, many of which have been identified by public health authorities to be harmful or potentially harmful. It is the high levels of these harmful chemicals in the smoke of a burning cigarette that is the primary cause of smoking-related diseases.
Smoke-free products do not burn tobacco, since they do not reach the high temperatures needed to combust material and produce smoke. Instead, they deliver nicotine (usually via an aerosol) that whilst addictive and not risk-free, should significantly lower the average levels of harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes. Whether a product reduces emissions of harmful chemicals compared to cigarette smoke, has to be scientifically assessed for each product.
What is nicotine?
Nicotine occurs naturally in tobacco. It’s one of the reasons why people smoke, along with ritual and taste. In order for smokers to switch from cigarettes to smoke-free alternatives completely, these products generally need to contain nicotine. Nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. However, nicotine is addictive and is not risk-free.
Scientifically validated alternatives
Scientifically substantiated, smoke-free alternatives can be a better choice than continued smoking. But in many countries, adult smokers don’t know about these alternatives and/or cannot access them. Many laws regulating tobacco products were developed before these alternatives existed. Consequently, the laws don’t distinguish clearly between cigarettes and smoke-free alternatives, even though they are fundamentally different. There is a potential public health benefit if large numbers of adult smokers—who would otherwise continue to smoke—change completely to smoke-free alternatives. Giving them access to, and accurate information about, these products and how they compare to continued cigarette smoking is critical.
Global tobacco policy is at a crossroads: it can remain on the well-worn path of “quit or continue,” where even the WHO acknowledges the number of smokers in 2025 will be roughly the same as today. Or it can implement innovative and robust policies to complement existing measures designed to discourage initiation and encourage cessation. The recognition of the role smoke-free alternatives can play will hugely accelerate the overall decline in smoking prevalence worldwide.
What are smoke-free products?
When we talk about smoke-free products, we mean nicotine-containing alternatives to combustible cigarettes for adults who would otherwise continue smoking. Some do not burn tobacco, such as heated tobacco or snus, while others do not contain tobacco at all, such as e-vapor products.