Nicotine and youth21 Oct 2018 · 5 min read
André Calantzopoulos. Chief Executive Officer, PMI*
For years, young people have been rightly warned not to smoke cigarettes. With the current rapid pace of innovation in the tobacco products space today, that crucial conversation must evolve. We must be emphatic that youth should not use any nicotine-containing product. Period. Nicotine is addictive and is not risk-free. I’m the CEO of Philip Morris International (PMI) and a parent. * I am clear with my children: Do not use any nicotine-containing products.
In light of activity by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to tackle e-cigarette use by American youth, a new conversation on nicotine is needed more than ever – a conversation that must be paired with meaningful action by society.
Alongside parents, public health professionals, and regulators, the manufacturers of tobacco and nicotine products must play their part. One of the most vocal members of the tobacco control community, Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, has said that “the public health impact of different products varies based on how and to whom they are marketed.” I agree.
A new conversation on nicotine is needed more than ever – a conversation that must be paired with meaningful action by society.
At PMI, we envision a smoke-free future – a world without cigarettes. For the hundreds of millions of men and women globally who will otherwise continue to smoke, our goal is for them to switch to nicotine-containing products that are substantiated as better choices than continuing to smoke.
We know that great care must be taken to achieve our smoke-free goal. Youth should not become nicotine users. Former smokers and never smokers should not start using tobacco or nicotine products. The focus must be on providing better choices to the men and women who smoke today, including the 40 million Americans who do so.
Preventing unintended use of e-cigarettes
We take that responsibility seriously. Our Good Conversion Practices serve as our bedrock for encouraging adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking to switch, while working to prevent unintended use in the countries where we sell innovative products that do not burn tobacco. We have no intention of offering these products to people who have never smoked, or who have quit smoking. We are also clear that these products contain nicotine, which is addictive and is not risk-free. Similarly, our marketing standards are rooted in the principle that we market and sell our products only to adult smokers.
Flavored e-cigarette liquids have been named as a factor in driving youth interest in vaping. In the U.S., on April 30 2019, the FDA authorized for sale three options of our heated tobacco product: a full tobacco variant and two menthol variants. These approximate to the taste and experience adult American smokers are accustomed to, and we believe this is vital to helping them make the switch from cigarettes.
In the order authorizing the sale of our heated tobacco product, the FDA set out clear commercialization guidelines, including marketing requirements, that maximize the opportunity for adults to switch from cigarettes, while minimizing unintended use. We fully support this objective.
There is a balance that must be struck. Youth should not use nicotine products.
That is beyond dispute. At the same time, public policy in the U.S. recognizes the role that new tobacco and other nicotine-containing products can play in helping move adult smokers away from cigarettes. Achieving this balance is absolutely necessary to realize a true public health breakthrough.
*André Calantzopouplos was speaking in his role as CEO at the time. On May 5, 2021, Jacek Olczak succeeded Mr. Calantzopoulos as CEO, and Mr. Calantzopoulos became Executive Chairman of the Board.