Leveraging On Smoke-Free Tobacco Alternatives For Better Public Health Outcomes

18 May 2023
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AllAfrica InfoWire (Washington, DC)

The debate around whether smokers should adopt Smoke-Free alternatives has been raging for years. A number of options to reduce harm linked to smoking tobacco have been suggested, with quitting or cessation  emerging as the most preferred effective way of reducing disease and mortality linked to tobacco smoking.

Following the successful development and rollout of Smoke-Free alternatives by Phillip Morris International (PMI), a growing number of scientists around the world have been advocating for the adoption of these products that are less harmful.  An increasing number of governments are also embracing the concept of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) and Smoke-Free alternatives.

Some of the countries that have set a precedence in THR across the globe include New Zealand, which in 2020, approved a new regulatory framework for e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, limiting the appeal and access to cigarettes while encouraging quitting. For those who don’t quit cigarettes, there is a regulatory facilitated support to switch to less harmful alternatives.

In Sweden, just 5.6 percent of adults smoke, making it the country with the lowest smoking related diseases in the European Union (EU).  The United Kingdom and regulators in several EU countries are also starting to see the benefits of THR, and many have started including THR as a pillar of their tobacco regulatory policies.  In 2015, Japan became the first country in the world to nationally launch tobacco heated products, and to date, heat-not-burn products constitute over 35 percent of all tobacco products in Japan.

While quitting tobacco use and smoking is the most trusted means of reducing tobacco related morbidity and mortality, many fail to quit. For decades Public Health Interventions have focussed on preventing people from starting smoking and encouraging them to quit. According to the American Centre for Diseases Control (CDC), fewer than one in ten adult cigarette smokers succeed in quitting each year. In any given year, nine out ten smokers don’t quit.

However, science has proven over the years that smokers and those who struggle to quit can actually switch to less harmful alternatives that deliver nicotine without the need for combustion.  PMI has used years of scntific innovation and research, to develop products that give smokers an option through Smoke-Free alternatives. Smoke-Free products do not burn tobacco, while cigarettes do and in the process of combustion they produce over 6000 carcinogens and chemicals that are harmful.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking cigarettes causes serious disease and is addictive. Despite this undeniable fact, there are currently over 1 billion smokers worldwide. The World Health Organization projects that by 2025, this number won’t change or will increase.

Lucca Rasi, PMI Vice President Product and Process Technology, said the solution to the ever growing number of smokers was science and it is only through science that a smoke free future can be achieved.

“Science made the impossible possible. I remember when we received the challenge almost 20 years ago to see whether we could develop a product that substantially reduces risk, but provides the enjoyment of nicotine and the experience to people that want to continue using, it seemed to be impossible but we made it possible.

What are the key elements that made it possible? First of all, it is around the product science.  There is a huge number of technology products scientists required to make and develop this product. Secondly, you need to have the consumer science. You need to understand what the consumer needs and wants? What are the main points? What are the asks? How do I translate that into features that I can put in the product?” said Rasi.

He added that there is need to incorporate assessment science when developing smoke free products.

“You also need to understand how you will make sure that you develop and deliver a product that constantly delivers the promises of the Smoke-Free technology in terms of no smoke and maximum toxicology reduction in clinical settings and know how this is impacting the health of the user. In other words, you have these three buckets of science that need to work together and this is the magic we need here to make a Smoke-Free future a reality.”

He said science is PMI’s core vision for a Smoke-Free future. Globally, more than 1,500 scientists, engineers and technicians are working to develop, assess, and engage on the science behind better alternatives for adults who would otherwise continue to smoke.

Gizelle Baker, the PMI Vice President of Scientific Engagement, said people smoke for different reasons and it was critical to rope in science to respond to some of these push factors through providing less harmful alternatives.

“Despite the fact that we have been talking for over 70 years that smoking kills, there are still over a billion smokers in the world today. We need to address the reasons why these people continue to smoke despite the fact that smoking causes death and disease. That is where making sure you deliver widely on what they are continuing to smoke for, while reducing the levels of toxicants that a smoker is inhaling will make a big difference” said Baker.

She also said to develop Smoke-Free products, there is need to be cognisant of the sensory aspect, the ritual aspect, the taste aspect and the nicotine as all these components come together and with the right combination for smokers, they will be able to switch completely away from cigarettes.  To date, millions of adult smokers have switched to one of our Smoke-free products.

A PMI heat-not-burn product research study looked at the chemicals found in cigarette smoke compared with the aerosol produced when tobacco is heated. The study found that on average, the levels of harmful chemicals were reduced by 90 to 95 per cent. IQOS was launched nationally in Japan in 2015 and since then, across the country, cigarette sales have fallen five times faster than before.

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