The public supports governments taking a new approach to reducing smoking rates

02 Mar 2021 · 5 min read

A global survey carried out by Povaddo for PMI suggests the public agree that policy-makers should consider the role smoke-free products can play in tobacco harm reduction.

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There is a public appetite for new approaches to reduce the societal harm caused by cigarettes, according to a global survey commissioned by PMI.

The independent survey of 22,507 adults in 20 countries and territories was conducted by research company Povaddo in December 2020. It explores attitudes regarding the role of smoke-free alternatives, as well as expectations toward governments and the industry.

When asked about the importance of key challenges in today’s world, respondents placed ensuring quality and affordable healthcare for all on a par with improving the economy, and expressed their continued support for governments to explore new approaches to reducing the prevalence of smoking.

“Smoke-free products can play an important role in lowering smoking rates,” said Jacek Olczak, Chief Operating 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.”

Among the findings, the respondents said that:

  • Adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking should have access to—and accurate information about—smoke-free alternatives, which are scientifically proven to be better than continued smoking (77 percent).
  • Governments should consider the role alternative products can play in making their country smoke-free (73 percent).
  • If it is possible to end cigarette sales in their country within 10 to 15 years (through smokers quitting smoking and nicotine altogether or by switching to better, science-based alternatives), their government should dedicate time and resources to making that a reality (67 percent).
  • Encouraging men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes to completely switch to smoke-free alternatives can complement other efforts to reduce the societal harm caused by cigarettes (71 percent).

Mar 16, 2021

Multi-country survey results

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Photo posed by models. © Getty Images

The public doesn’t believe more regulation and taxation alone can achieve a smoke-free future

Current strategies are not viewed as being sufficient, the survey suggests, with less than one in four respondents believing that increasing regulation and taxation on cigarettes is all that is needed.

A majority of those asked, 58 percent, believe these measures alone will not achieve a smoke-free future.

Clearly, smoking is a problem society wants to be addressed, with 76 percent of respondents believing it’s important for governments to dedicate time and resources to reduce smoking rates.

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.”
Jacek Olczak, Chief Operating Officer, PMI

Working together to achieve a smoke-free future 

The survey found that multilateral collaboration to achieve a smoke-free future has broad public support.

Sixty eight percent of respondents broadly support tobacco companies working with governments, regulators, and public health experts to ensure adult smokers have access to better alternatives and accurate information about them. 

Photo posed by models. © Getty Images

Science and technology can drive progress

The survey reaffirms the overall importance of science and technology.

Eighty-eight percent of respondents think governments have a responsibility to embrace the latest scientific and technological developments. 

Unfortunately, only 51 percent think that governments have been successful in ensuring society has access to the latest scientific and technological developments. 

Eighty-one percent of respondents think it is also important that businesses embrace the latest scientific and technological developments, with 66 percent believing they had made advances in this area.

Misinformation is hampering change…

A concerning number of respondents—43 percent—were confused by what they had seen, read, or heard relating to e-cigarettes or heated tobacco products in the past six months. 

It’s clear that misinformation threatens to impede progress by preventing those adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes from switching to better alternatives. 

And that’s reflected in the survey’s findings, with 76 percent saying they would be more likely to consider switching to a smoke-free alternative if they had clarity on how these products differ from cigarettes and the science behind them.

… but the public are hopeful of a better future

Despite the public’s support for new approaches to handle critical societal challenges, 65 percent of respondents still feel optimistic about the year ahead—especially when it comes to improvements in public health.

The capacity to harness innovation will continue to play a major role. If governments heed the public’s call to embrace advances in science and technology, we can achieve a better future more quickly.

When it comes to smoking, science and technology have allowed the creation of better alternatives to cigarettes for the hundreds of millions of adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke in the world. To accelerate the journey to a smoke-free future, smokers who don’t quit must be allowed to have access to, and accurate information about, these scientifically substantiated better alternatives.

Mar 16, 2021

Multi-country survey results

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* PMI’s online survey was carried out by Povaddo from 8–24 December, 2020. In total, 22,507 legal age, general population adults aged 21+ took part from 20 different countries and territories (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam). Around 900 general population adults and 200 adult smokers contributed to the research from each country and territory.

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