Look at the science and let facts inform the debate

19 Sep 2019 · 5 min read
PMI was once a company focused solely on cigarettes. Now we are a leading voice advocating for a smoke-free future.

We were once a company focused solely on cigarettes. Now we are one of the leading voices advocating for a world without smoke, and the reason is simple: There are more than 1 billion men and women who smoke globally, and despite the ongoing regulatory efforts to curb prevalence, this figure is not likely to decrease significantly in the near future.

Tobacco control policy measures differ from country to country, but some seem to fail the very people they seek to help. Regulators cannot turn a blind eye to the men and women who smoke. They need to rethink tobacco policies to offer adult smokers who don’t quit access to, and information about, smoke-free alternatives.

At Philip Morris International (PMI), we are playing our part. In 1997, the UN Focal Point on Tobacco or Health issued a call to action to reduce the toxicity of existing tobacco products. We’re rising to the challenge.

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We transformed our business, moving away from cigarettes and developing new, science-based smoke-free alternatives. These are grounded in two decades of scientific research, and they share one critical commonality: they do not burn tobacco. They represent a pragmatic option for adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking.

More and more tobacco control experts, scientists and regulators – who take the time to review the scientific evidence available around smoke-free alternatives – agree that fundamental changes in tobacco control strategies are required to make real difference. In Japan for example, 22 percent of the country’s adult smokers have abandoned cigarettes and switched to smoke-free alternatives in just four years. This translates to a decrease of cigarette sales on average five times faster when smoke-free products were introduced.

Unfortunately, results such as these seem to have been willingly left out of tobacco control policy decisions, because of a persistent effort focused on hating our industry, rather than placing adult smokers at the center of tobacco control policy measures. And the people who pay the highest price for this voluntary miscalculation are adult smokers who won’t otherwise quit cigarettes. They are often misinformed, or sometimes even prevented from accessing smoke-free products, and left with a binary choice: quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether, or continue smoking.

Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see that an increasing number of health authorities across the world – such as the UK and New Zealand – are progressing in a different direction and embracing the potential of smoke-free products as viable alternatives to cigarettes for adult smokers who do not quit.

No matter how “unorthodox” this may sound, a tobacco company such as PMI has considerable potential to contribute to the progress of achieving a world without smoke. To succeed, a strong collaboration between civil society, business and regulators is required, one that will rest on our collective ability to focus on science and facts, rather than prejudice and misinformation.

We hope that in the future, our transformation and genuine desire to change for better will propel an honest and unbiased conversation that keeps smokers and their needs at the heart of the debate.