A balanced approach to regulation can end cigarette use24 Mar 2023 · 2 min read
Today, smoke-free products that are a better alternative to cigarettes exist for those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke.
However, all too often decision-makers are denying this vast population the opportunity to make a better choice.
Of course, the best choice for any smoker is to quit all products containing tobacco and nicotine. That is beyond doubt.
But, in any given year, nine out of ten adult smokers continue to smoke. This underlines the importance of new smoke-free innovations in complementing cessation strategies.
How to end cigarette use for good
Gregoire Verdeaux, Senior Vice President, External Affairs, at Philip Morris International, speaks to camera:
You have to start with the people.
Relaxed instrumental music plays
There are still over 1bn smokers in the world
Traditional anti-smoking policies alone aren’t working
Gregoire Verdeaux continues speaking:
It's decades and decades of a very traditional policy, which is to tell the people, of course, that they shouldn't start smoking cigarettes and when they have started, that they should try to quit. But then taxing them until they quit, which we know by and large, doesn't work.
By adopting risk-proportionate regulation, governments can encourage adult smokers who don’t quit…
…to switch to scientifically substantiated better alternatives and leave cigarettes behind for good.
Gregoire Verdeaux continues speaking:
It's about how to make sure that adult smokers can actually access a less harmful product.
And thankfully, this is what a number of regulators have started to acknowledge that smoke free products are a lot less harmful than cigarettes.
If you compare better alternatives to cigarettes to clean air, then you will realize that yes, they are not risk free compared to clean air, but if you compare them to what they should be compared with, which is cigarettes, then you realize that without a doubt they are less harmful.
So, if you stop looking at things from the traditional tobacco control policy, the prevention, the cessation, the taxation, but also in complement say, well, if none of the above has worked, which frankly is the case for the past 40 years, what can we do?
And then this is where you realize that the smoker needs to be able to access the product, needs to be able to know about the product, this product has to be affordable and it has to provide the experience that will help the smoker to switch away from cigarettes exclusively, irreversibly.
It is very doable to get rid of cigarettes the moment that you have a tobacco harm reduction approach and thankfully a number of regulators, the most advanced ones have started to recognize that.
Smoke-free products are not risk-free and provide nicotine, which is addictive, but they are a better choice for adults than continued smoking.
Quitting tobacco and nicotine completely is the best choice.
Philip Morris International’s logo is seen on screen.
Delivering a better, smoke-free future.
The robust case for risk-proportionate regulation
There is no question that all tobacco and nicotine products should be regulated. What remains to be sufficiently addressed is how they should be regulated.
A growing number of public health and policy experts recommend that regulation should follow a fundamental principle: Products that carry different levels of risk should be regulated differently and in proportion to the risks they pose.
This is known as risk-proportionate regulation, which recognizes that scientifically substantiated smoke-free alternatives are a better choice than continued smoking for those adults who wouldn’t otherwise quit cigarettes.
However, in many countries around the world, the only tobacco and nicotine products that can be legally sold are combustible products, such as cigarettes.
And even where innovative better alternatives are available, existing policies often impede access to them.
This must change.
Countries should adopt a balanced approach to regulation—one that paves the way for adult smokers to have access to, and accurate information about, better alternatives that they can afford, while at the same time preventing unintended use, such as by youth.
Status quo or progress?
Not adopting this approach essentially means accepting the status quo—that smokers who would not otherwise quit will continue to smoke cigarettes, the most harmful form of nicotine consumption.
Governments have a crucial role in defining the way forward. They can influence the pace and scale at which adult smokers switch to better alternatives by embracing a balanced approach to regulation that keeps pace with scientific and technological progress.
HOW SHOULD REGULATION BE FORMED
TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC?
Regulation should allow adult smokers to access information about better alternatives to cigarettes and encourage adult smokers to switch to these if they don’t quit altogether.
Regulation should aim to incentivize adult smokers to switch to smoke-free products while minimizing unintended consequences, such as use by non-nicotine users and minors.
Safety and quality
Regulation should set minimum safety and quality standards for smoke-free products.
Regulation should acknowledge the fundamental differences between combustible tobacco products (such as cigarettes) and scientifically substantiated tobacco and nicotine-containing products that don’t burn tobacco and are, therefore, inherently smoke-free.
Regulation should implement a framework for post-market surveillance, designed to ensure that the products are only being adopted by current smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke and not being used by former smokers, non-smokers, or youth.
Working together toward a smoke-free future
Combining existing measures like prevention and cessation with smoke-free alternatives for those adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke presents a monumental public health opportunity.
That’s why we’re appealing to governments to recognize the clear scientific merits of risk-proportionate regulation and allow adult smokers access to, and accurate information about, these products.
This is the modern approach that will bring a smoke-free future to fruition—and make cigarettes a thing of the past.