Taking responsibility

08 Nov 2019 · 3 min read
Why companies considered to be part of the problem should be part of the solution

Smoking is a global health problem, with 1.1 billion smokers in the world. Everyone knows that smoking cigarettes is harmful. And yet, despite anti-smoking policies, nine out of 10 smokers won’t quit in any given year. This is where PMI can play a part in complementing efforts to reduce the number of smokers, thanks to our knowledge and expertise in this area. And we are not alone in having this potential and acting on it.

Energy companies are investing heavily in sustainable technologies to counteract their environmental impact. Car companies are moving from combustion to electric engines. House, office, and factory builders are vastly improving the efficiency of their designs and thereby reducing their carbon footprint. In the case of PMI, a leading international tobacco company, we are developing smoke-free alternatives to offer adult smokers who don’t quit a better alternative to continued smoking.

Providing a viable solution to a complex issue takes a depth of understanding that a company involved in the problem is often best placed to address. It requires enough research and data to comprehensively understand why the problem exists, and the skills, expertise, and infrastructure to develop a solution that is viable and accepted by consumers. 

Why does PMI offer smoke-free alternatives?

In 1997, the UN Focal Point on Tobacco or Health recommended that “in order to assist smokers who are so heavily dependent that they cannot possibly stop smoking, every effort should be made to reduce the toxicity of existing tobacco products.”

We accepted this challenge, and our scientists, researchers, and engineers have now developed smoke-free products that are a better alternative to continuing smoking. While some argued that the quickest solution was to immediately stop selling cigarettes, this is unrealistic. There are more than one billion smokers in the world today, and if we were to stop selling cigarettes immediately, they would simply buy cigarettes from another source. The issue would remain unchanged.

We know – through our scientific research – that one of the main problems with cigarettes is burning. When a cigarette is lit, the burning causes the release of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals that have been linked to smoking-related illnesses. The aim of scientifically substantiated smoke-free alternatives is to reduce the levels of these chemicals through the elimination of burning.

This knowledge, coupled with the expertise of more than 400 scientists and developers which we have taken on, and its investment of more than $6 billion in R&D, has helped us develop our heated tobacco product. To date, 8.8 million adult smokers have changed to this product and have completely stopped smoking cigarettes. And recent independent research from Japan found that our heated tobacco product “likely reduced cigarette sales in Japan”.

But we are not content with these early figures and have set a goal that by 2025, 40 million people who would otherwise have smoked cigarettes will have changed to our smoke-free products. However, if smokers who don’t quit are denied access, this could significantly slow progress towards a smoke-free world.

Big business cannot hide from the impacts of their products. And some are going further, by taking on the responsibility of doing something about these impacts. Some may argue that by being part of the problem, these companies should not have a seat at the table when solutions are discussed. However, with the knowledge and expertise these big companies possess, they should be a part of the solution.

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