It is time to focus on the people who matter most – the world’s one billion smokers – and produce solutions that work for them. To that end, coming up with better alternatives to continued smoking - for the men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes - is a matter of urgency.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos is once more bringing together leaders from around the globe to solve the planet’s most complex challenges. It’s clear to us that people expect businesses and governments to work together on these challenges. We stand ready to do our part to drive positive change – and create a better future for the world’s 1.1 billion smokers.
Our commitment to a smoke-free future is no passing whim, but the result of many years of careful deliberation, backed up by a substantial R&D program. We have already invested more than USD 4.5 billion in our central strategic goal—to provide adult smokers with better options than continued smoking. And to people who say, “Why not just stop selling cigarettes?” we respectfully reply, “You are missing the point.”
Cigarette smoking is a fact of life. There has been a concerted campaign across the globe to warn of the risks of smoking, discourage people from starting and encourage smokers to stop. But progress toward the end we all desire—a world in which cigarette smoking is consigned to history—has been painfully slow. More than 1 billion people worldwide smoke cigarettes and, according to the World Health Organization, there will still be more than 1 billion in 2025.
Our message to the critics is simple: These billion-plus smokers include your neighbors, your friends, maybe even your family. Measures to deter initiation and encourage cessation are a fundamental. There is no disagreement there. But for the large population of existing cigarettes smokers who’d otherwise continue smoking, there has to be a sensible plan. So how, practically, can we help? How can we encourage these smokers to shift to new, scientifically proven products that are better alternatives to continued smoking?
Companies should step up and take responsibility, American author Jesse Kornbluth writes. Discover his views.
Philip Morris International calls for open dialogue about regulation of smoke-free tobacco products.
IPSOS survey finds that smokers should have access to alternatives to cigarettes and the right to know if better alternatives exist.
Let us be very clear. In a perfect world, all smokers would quit tobacco and nicotine consumption completely, and no one would take up smoking at all. But in a world where smoking is a fact of life, we cannot simply ignore the compelling scientific evidence that demonstrates that not all forms of tobacco are equally harmful.
What matters is what the consumer is inhaling. There is a huge difference between smoke from a burning cigarette and the aerosol from a non-combustible product. It’s that burning process that creates the vast majority of the harmful and potentially harmful chemicals that are the primary causes of smoking-related diseases. If science validates that there is a difference between products, shouldn’t the products be treated differently? And shouldn’t the millions of men and women now smoking cigarettes know about those differences? Can you imagine the criticism that PMI would face if, at some point in the future, it was discovered that we had better, options to offer smokers, but had left them in the laboratory?
Yet while our commitment to a smoke-free future is unwavering, and we are confident that we have science on our side, we cannot make this journey alone. For too long, the debate around smoking has been polarized, which has led in turn to paralysis.
Without a willingness by world leaders, governments, regulators and NGOs present in Davos to look dispassionately at the scientific evidence in favor of alternative, smoke-free products, transformative change will simply be impossible. But we take heart from the fact that, in some countries, that reality has already been recognized.
In the U.S. and the U.K., there is a growing acknowledgement that smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes can complement existing health policies focused on prevention and cessation. In Japan, there has been a 22 percent reduction in cigarette consumption in the past three years, since the introduction of smoke-free products. That is a remarkable figure.
At PMI, we take our wider responsibilities as a company very seriously. And we urge others, in the same spirit of seriousness, to put aside their prejudices, reflect on the advantages of smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes and support us in our historic mission.
Those who are still in opposition should be aware that they are becoming disablers of public health solutions. They are blocking change, denying smokers these alternatives.
This truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
We must seize it—and seize it together.