Inventing better alternatives for the greatest number of smokers

The World Health Organization estimates that there will be more than a billion smokers by 2025.1 With so many people choosing to smoke, it makes sense that they should have access to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes.

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A common-sense approach for public health

We are investing people, resources, time, and money to develop better alternatives for smokers. Our innovation pipeline includes four product platforms that can meet the varying preferences of adult smokers and hence help them to switch. 

In pursuing our vision of reduced-risk products, we are also eager to see measures introduced that drive large-scale switching as quickly as possible. We can only achieve a significant public-health benefit when a large number of adult smokers switch to less harmful alternatives. We are confident that the right mix of government leadership and commercial initiative will dramatically accelerate efforts to reduce the health burden of smoking.

The problem with burning

The basic ritual of smoking is simple: a smoker lights a cigarette and draws air through it for a certain number of puffs, until the tobacco leaves and paper are completely burned away. This burning produces a complex mixture that we call smoke. Cigarette smoke contains flavors from the tobacco blend, as well as nicotine that exists naturally in tobacco leaves. It’s these elements that consumers enjoy while smoking. However, the very same burning process also produces more than 6,000 chemicals, of which about 100 have been identified as causes or potential causes of smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and emphysema.

Through years of research and development, we’ve created a new class of breakthrough products that do not rely on the principle of burning and therefore do not produce smoke. Instead, we have found several ways to produce a flavorful nicotine-containing vapor that a consumer can inhale, but that has significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals than cigarettes.

Our heated tobacco products are based on the heat-not-burn principle, where tobacco is heated just enough to release nicotine and flavors in a vapor. Our products without tobacco use liquid nicotine extracted from tobacco leaves, each producing a flavorful nicotine-containing vapor in a distinctly different way. While not risk-free, all of these breakthrough products are a better alternative to smoking—but the best choice is to quit, or not to start smoking.

The role of nicotine

Nicotine is addictive and can be highly toxic when ingested or absorbed in high doses (beyond those found in smoking or vaping), and it can increase a person’s heart rate and blood pressure. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not the nicotine that makes cigarette smoking harmful. It is the toxins and carcinogens in tobacco smoke that are the primary causes of smoking-related diseases. Nicotine is one of the reasons that people smoke, along with taste and ritual. In order for smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives, these products need to contain nicotine. That’s precisely why we are focused on developing products that offer a flavorful, nicotine-containing vapor—but with significantly lower levels of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

While these products are better alternatives to smoking, the best option for health is to quit or not start smoking. Certain people—including pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with heart disease, severe high blood pressure, or diabetes—should not use products that contain nicotine. Minors should not use or have access to tobacco or nicotine-containing products.

Demand for less harmful alternatives

Adult smokers worldwide are looking for better alternatives to cigarettes, with different preferences in terms of ritual, taste, and experience.

Many consumers are familiar with e-cigarettes, which have been on the market for several years. While the current generation of these products doesn’t satisfy all smokers’ needs, they have had considerable success. We’re already selling e-cigarettes, and we are investing to improve the technology.

We also see a lot of promise in heated tobacco products. In this category, we’ve launched the IQOS tobacco heating system in key cities around the world. Millions of adult smokers have already switched to IQOS and stopped smoking, and we will continue to launch in new markets.

By offering a diverse portfolio of potentially less harmful products, we believe we can switch an even greater number of smokers more quickly, and increase our company’s presence in the category, while having a positive impact on public health.

1 Bilano V, Gilmour S, Moffiet T, d'Espaignet ET, Stevens GA, Commar A, Tuyl F, Hudson I, Shibuya K. (2015) Global trends and projections for tobacco use, 1990–2025: an analysis of smoking indicators from the WHO Comprehensive Information Systems for Tobacco Control. Lancet 385:966-76.

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