The well-known risks of smoking have led regulators to impose more restrictions and higher excise taxes on cigarettes than apply to any other consumer product – while allowing cigarettes to remain available to adults.
There’s absolutely no doubt that tobacco products should be subject to strict rules and enforcement. The record shows that we respect government’s authority – and leadership role – in protecting public health.
At times, we have forcefully objected to regulations, such as those that remove branding from our cigarette packages and that force consumers to choose among products that look nearly identical. We still believe that plain packaging inappropriately treats adult smokers as unable to make their own decisions. And we don’t agree that banning cigarettes makes sense for smokers or for society at large.
With comprehensive requirements in place to control nearly every aspect of the cigarette business, the question becomes: what’s the plan to address the needs of more than one billion people who still smoke?
The answer, in our view, is innovation – in products and in policies. As we work to design a smoke-free future, our priorities are changing. Technology that we and others have developed makes it possible to shift the tobacco and nicotine market towards a future in which cigarettes are replaced by less harmful, yet satisfying, smoke-free alternatives. In this context, sensible, risk-based regulation of smoke-free products, combined with further restrictions on cigarettes, can help address the harm caused by smoking more effectively – and faster – than plain packaging and other traditional regulatory measures.
To be clear, regulations should continue to dissuade people from starting to smoke and encourage cessation. But it’s equally clear that millions of men and women will continue to smoke, and they should have the opportunity to switch to better alternatives.