Multiple studies suggest youth initiation of heated tobacco products is low

29 May 2020 · 3 min read

Independent research from Japan, Switzerland, and Germany, provides insight on youth uptake of these products.

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In any given year, nine out of 10 smokers will continue smoking. These men and women deserve scientifically substantiated better alternatives—which now exist, thanks to developments in science and technology. However, the commercialization of smoke-free products should not come at the expense of youth.

We are clear: Youth should not use any tobacco or nicotine products. This is something we take very seriously at PMI.

Setting our own high marketing standards

Tobacco marketing is subject to extensive restrictions, including outright bans, throughout the world. But in countries where tobacco regulation is more lenient, and would allow more freedom in terms of marketing, we stick to our strict marketing practices.

PMI’s marketing practices must adhere to four core principles, without exception and regardless of the country or the type of product, as stated in our Guidebook for Success, which is our code of conduct:

  • We only market and sell our products to adult smokers.
  • We warn consumers about the health effects of our products.
  • Our marketing is honest, transparent, and accurate.
  • We respect the law and our high standards.

In addition to these four core principles, our Good Conversion Practices govern the marketing and sale of our smoke-free products. Our goal is to convert adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to scientifically substantiated smoke-free products.

Independent studies on youth initiation of heated tobacco products

Except if required by the relevant regulation, we don’t conduct research involving participants under the legal age for tobacco use, so we rely on the data and conclusions reported by the global scientific community to understand whether youth are using heated tobacco products.

Switzerland

In 2019, Addiction Switzerland, a national center of competence in addictions research, published its analysis of the Swiss data gathered by the international Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study.

In 2018, 11,121 students in Switzerland aged 11–15 participated in the survey, which records the health behaviors and substance use of young people.

Less than two percent of 15-year-olds reported having used a heated tobacco product at least once in their lives. Of those, almost all had also smoked traditional cigarettes.

Germany

In 2020, The Federal Centre for Health Education in Germany published the 2019 Drug Affinity Study.

Based on a nationwide survey of 7,000 adolescents and young adults between 12 and 25 in 2019, the report noted that 7.2 percent of those aged between 12 and 17 smoke, but only 0.5 percent had ever used a heated tobacco product.

Japan

In 2020, Kuwabara et al. published results from the 2017 Lifestyle Survey of Adolescents in Japan on the prevalence of the use of cigarettes and alternative tobacco products.

The study found that the use of heated tobacco products was lower than both traditional and electronic cigarettes in both junior high and high schools.

In total, 1.1 percent of those in junior high school and 2.2 percent in high school had experienced heated tobacco at least once.

Monthly usage stood at 0.5 percent for junior high school and 0.9 percent for high school, while 0.1 percent were daily users of heated tobacco in both junior high school and high school.

Preventing youth initiation

We support regulation aimed at preventing youth use of tobacco or other nicotine-containing products, and strict enforcement of minimum-age laws.

Whilst these case studies show that youth uptake of heated tobacco products is low, one minor using any product containing tobacco and/or nicotine is one too many. 

We are committed to guarding against youth initiation and youth use of nicotine-containing products. All of our markets have been tasked to further enforce and modernize youth access prevention programs. And it is our target to ensure that our full portfolio of electronic smoke-free devices will be equipped with age-verification technology by 2023.

As part of the modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) orders granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its authorization of our heated tobacco product in July 2020, we are required to monitor and report who is using the product in the U.S., including whether it is used by youth and young adults. 

A comprehensive overview of our post-market obligations can be found in the FDA’s Technical Project Lead, an 80-page scientific analysis of our modified risk tobacco product application. 

Achieving a smoke-free future

PMI has transformed to deliver better alternatives to those adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. These products should never be used by youth or adult nonsmokers.

With robust global measures to prevent unintended use of smoke-free alternatives—together with a united approach and broad strategic input—we can realize the seismic public health opportunity of a smoke-free future.

Read more on PMIScience.com.

This page was updated on March 26, 2021.

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