Addressing big global challenges such as climate change, inequality, and public health crises requires broad societal action.

We can see, for example, that efforts to decarbonize the world’s economies will succeed only once all entities— governments, businesses and other organizations, and citizens and consumers—change their behavior, priorities, and choices. For such a shift to happen at the necessary pace and scale, individuals cannot rely on businesses and institutions to act on their behalf. Rather than being passive beneficiaries of innovation, people must actively engage in the public discourse on issues that affect them.

They must become change agents, motivated and empowered to bring about the positive change they seek. Harnessed correctly, the Fifth Estate can catalyze people-driven change by providing platforms through which individuals can voice their perspectives and challenge traditional narratives.

This dynamic interplay not only would amplify marginalized voices but could also accelerate social, political, and cultural shifts.

To create a better future for people and the planet, it is imperative, therefore, that businesses, policymakers, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) understand and embrace the power of the Fifth Estate in a responsible way to accelerate change.


Cigarettes belong in museums.
Jacek Olczak, CEO

Philip Morris International (PMI) is on a mission to end cigarette smoking as quickly as possible. Embracing the role of individuals and encouraging a people-centric debate involving policymakers, public health authorities, and civil society is critical to achieving that goal.

Doing away with cigarettes would be an immensely positive disruption for the estimated 1.1 billion people worldwide who smoke today and for global public health. To champion and accelerate this change, PMI has transformed its entire business model. For well over a decade, the company has shifted its focus away from cigarettes in favor of developing and responsibly commercializing smoke-free products that are scientifically substantiated to be less harmful than smoking. As of September 2023, more than a third of PMI’s total net revenues come from these products and its ambition is to be a substantially smoke-free company by 2030, with over two-thirds of its total net revenues coming from smoke-free products. As PMI CEO Jacek Olczak has made clear: “Cigarettes belong in museums.”

There’s no doubt that the best choice any smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine altogether. But we know that many won’t. By empowering every adult who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch to a better alternative, we can make cigarette smoking— the most harmful form of nicotine consumption—obsolete.

Such transformative change, however, is a whole-of-society pursuit that requires the active involvement of tobacco companies, regulators, and the public health community to enable adults who smoke to switch to the better alternatives now available.

To accomplish this, every innovation, policy, and debate in this space must center not on ideology or one-sided arguments but on the voices, needs, and aspirations of those most directly impacted: adult smokers seeking a better path forward.

We can significantly accelerate the transition away from cigarettes by empowering those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to change to better alternatives. The key to progress: enacting policies that build awareness and increase the acceptability, availability, and affordability of these better products.

Crucially, this is about embracing a people-centric debate—based on science and free of misinformation— that acknowledges that it is adults who currently smoke who will ultimately make cigarettes obsolete through their choices and actions. It’s our shared responsibility to empower them to effect that change—for their benefit and the benefit of society.

Next section: Shifting realms of power and influence