Why can't we talk about our better alternatives?

04 Aug 2019 · 3 min read
Imagine you’d spent years developing a product that could give people better choices. And when you’d begun offering it for sale, you were prevented from telling people about it?
Men separated by brick wall illustration

Philip Morris International is a tobacco company planning for a world without cigarettes. We have focused our efforts on creating alternatives for smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. We have spent billions of dollars and recruited more than 1,586 top scientists, engineers, and technicians to research and develop these products. But there is a problem.

Why can’t we talk about our smoke-free products?

Regulators apply strict tobacco control regulations on the marketing and selling of cigarettes, which we agree is the right thing to do. However, many of these regulations treat all tobacco products and e-cigarettes the same. In fact, in most cases, the current regulatory framework was drawn up before e-cigarettes or other alternatives were even invented and therefore should to be adapted to incorporate these innovative technologies.

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We believe that if regulators treated e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products differently to cigarettes, it could dramatically reduce the number of smokers globally. There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products today. Many governments consider these alternatives in the same risk profile as cigarettes. Some have even banned the sale of these alternatives outright, while cigarettes continue to be sold.

We offer e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products as part of our growing smoke-free portfolio. These products allow adult smokers to enjoy the flavors and ritual of smoking, with significantly less of the harmful chemicals compared to cigarette smoke.

Our smoke-free products also contain nicotine, in order to make them an acceptable alternative to continued smoking. We know nicotine is addictive and it isn’t risk-free, but it is not the primary cause of most smoking-related diseases.

We do not market our products as cessation devices and they are not designed to be used as stepping stones to quitting. Our products are not designed for or marketed towards youth, people who have never smoked, or former smokers.

Around the world, governments have taken very different approaches when it comes to curtailing smoking rates. Tobacco products are subjected to strict rules and standards, which we absolutely agree with. E-cigarettes and heated tobacco products should also be held to high standards; however, adding them to a different regulatory category could make smoke-free alternatives available to more adult smokers who otherwise would continue to smoke.

Our scientific assessment program is inspired by the well-recognized practices of the pharmaceutical industry. We openly share our findings online and invite others to review our science.

Why tobacco control regulations need to change

Current restrictions on selling and marketing of cigarettes, along with public health campaigns fostering smoking prevention and cessation, are important factors to achieve a world without cigarette smoke. However, while smoking rates are declining in many countries, the drop isn’t sharp enough. More than 1 billion smokers continue to use cigarettes.

It’s time to move beyond the ideological fight and think about what’s best for adult smokers. The best thing a smoker can do is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether. However, as great as it would be if the world’s 1 billion smokers did this, we need to recognize that’s not going to happen overnight. Society needs to embrace a common-sense solution for the millions of adult smokers who do not quit. These men and women who smoke deserve access to information about better alternatives. Progressive tobacco control policies must embrace the opportunity offered by better alternatives to continued smoking.

By banning smoking alternatives – which are scientifically proven to be better alternatives to smoking – from sale and consumption, regulators leave smokers with just two options – quit altogether or continue smoking. This is putting ideology before common sense. That cannot be right. And we will not stop calling it out.