Six things about... Moira Gilchrist5 min read
Problem solver, change advocate, believer in science: Get to know PMI's Head of Scientific and Public Communications.
1. Moira is an advocate for “better”.
She has dedicated her working life to one cause – using technology and science in the service of better outcomes for millions of people. She joined Philip Morris International after a career in the pharmaceutical industry. “It is a perfectly logical career change, when you think about it. R&D in the pharmaceutical industry is about using innovation and science to help address pressing health problems. By the same token, PMI is using technology and science to develop alternatives that are a better choice for smokers, than continuing to smoke.”
2. She is a problem solver.
"There is quite a widespread perception in the field of public health that the two-pronged existing strategy of discouraging people from starting to smoke and helping them quit smoking is sufficient to solve the problem. My question is, why can’t technology play a complementary role?” She is quick to point out that in every other major sector, technology is seen as absolutely key to improving outcomes. “In my view, anyone denying the role of technology in harm reduction is the enemy of progress.”
3. She was won over by PMI’s determination.
“I joined PMI at the very beginning of its transformative journey, and I am very glad I did. Right from the outset, I sensed the company’s determination to effect lasting positive change on the lives of its consumers and in the industry overall.” She could see, as a scientist, that for PMI to simply stop selling cigarettes would solve nothing – consumers would get their cigarettes elsewhere and there would be zero impact on public health. “You need to address the fundamentals – and one of those fundamentals, whether you like it or not, is that there are 1 billion men and women on the planet, buying cigarettes every day.”
4. Moira's a change advocate.
“Our strategic aim is very clear. We want to ensure that the billion regular buyers of cigarettes either stop buying cigarettes because they have quit smoking or, if they cannot or will not quit, switch to a better alternative. Once that behavioral change gathers momentum, I am convinced that there will be lasting and meaningful benefits for public health.” Moira is also optimistic that the battle for hearts and minds that must effect behavioral change in smokers can be won – and won sooner than the skeptics realize.
5. She knows the importance of rigorous testing.
“In the case of our heated tobacco products, we have done numerous clinical and non-clinical studies in collaboration with contract research specialists. The potential of those products for risk reduction is backed up by volumes of high quality research data.”
6. She believes in the power of science.
“Whenever we fund research into tobacco-related matters, there is always criticism of that research. But if the only grounds for rejecting our research findings is that it has been funded by a tobacco company, then that is not good enough.” Moira points out that the majority of independent studies into PMI’s smoke-free products have produced results that are broadly in line with the findings of the company. “Much of the criticism comes from organizations and individuals who are focused on defeating the tobacco industry, rather than on addressing the interests of those adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking.”