It's Time: Why it's difficult for adult smokers to find out more about alternatives

17 May 2019 · 5 min read
Change is long overdue. It's Time to make a difference to the lives of 1.1 billion smokers.
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For many years, we’ve been working on alternatives to cigarettes. We’ve re-allocated funds away from our cigarette business, and towards the research and development of smoke-free alternatives. We’ve recruited more than 400 scientists, engineers and technicians, all with the specific purpose of developing and scientifically assessing smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes for adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking.

Our methods follow pharmaceutical industry standards, and the draft guidance on Modified Risk Tobacco Products (MRTP) issued by the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products in 2012. Our research aligns with international standards and practices that assure the quality and integrity of clinical and non-clinical laboratory processes and include the Good Laboratory Practice, Good Clinical Practice, and Good Epidemiological Practice standards.

Irrespective of the science we have, there are limitations on what we can say about our smoke-free alternatives, even if that information is factual, truthful and non-misleading. And we are not the only company with such limitations. We’re asking regulators to help change this for the millions of smokers who would otherwise continue smoking.

Regulation is important

It's clear that regulation is necessary to ensure tobacco and nicotine-containing products are responsibly marketed. It is of paramount importance to prevent youth access and usage. It is imperative to ensure that communication about products is truthful and non-misleading, and to prevent false and misleading claims. But what if the regulation in fact bans the provision of truthful and non-misleading information? What if that regulation keeps people in the dark?

Regulation needs to adapt

There’s a wealth of regulation that encourages people to quit smoking, or not start at all. But many of these laws were developed before vaping, heated tobacco and other alternatives existed. In some cases regulations do not, or do not sufficiently, distinguish between smoke-free alternatives and cigarettes – despite the potential of these smoke-free alternatives to present less risk of harm than continued smoking.

This lack of distinction can cause confusion with consumers. It can dissuade those who would otherwise continue smoking from considering better alternatives to cigarettes. Where they are supported by regulation, they’ve made a huge difference to smoking habits: just two years after heated tobacco products were introduced in Japan, cigarette sales fell 27 percent.

Yet most regulations around the world still fail to distinguish between cigarettes and smoke-free products like vapes and heated tobacco. This denies smokers who would otherwise continue smoking a choice. This goes against the spirit of the regulations, such as the Tobacco Control Act, which encourages the development of genuine alternatives in the public interest.

The World Health Organization estimates that there will still be over a billion smokers in 2025. The best choice any smoker can make is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether. But, in any given year, a large population of existing adult smokers will continue smoking. Isn’t it time for these men and women to know that there are better alternatives and how they compare to continued smoking?

If people don’t switch to better alternatives but keep smoking because they were not aware they existed, it will be because they were kept in the dark. We are answering to our consumers with our innovative products. It would be terrific for regulators and policymakers to push for innovative policy. We need a real-world approach. It’s essential to address the interests of the men and women who will continue smoking. It’s time for innovative policies that propel innovative products.