We at PMI have committed ourselves to our vision of a Smoke-Free Future, where there are no cigarettes and the nicotine-containing products that are available don’t burn tobacco. We’re not there yet, but we’re working on it. During this period of transition, we seek to understand the choices men and women who smoke are making regarding these products. Are they switching completely to a scientifically substantiated better alternative to cigarettes, or are they making other choices?
Most importantly, anyone who does not smoke should not start. For those people who do smoke, the best thing they can do to for their health is to quit smoking. For those who don’t quit, the health impacts of cigarette smoke can be greatly reduced if they switch completely to an alternative that is scientifically substantiated to be less harmful than cigarettes.
But what choices do smokers actually make regarding cigarettes? Tobacco harm reduction would be much simpler if everyone who smoked cigarettes would quit, but that isn’t the case. People make many other choices. They may switch to a heated tobacco product or an e-cigarette, they may use multiple products, and those multiple products may or may not include cigarettes. And how often a person uses their nicotine-containing product also varies, as well as which products they use over time can change.
How a smoker uses the products available to them does matter. Perhaps someone who smokes regularly decides to replace some of those cigarettes with another product. That’s a step in the right direction, but not the same as quitting or switching completely. However, if they already smoke and add a new tobacco- or nicotine-containing product on top of that, one has to assume it can only add to their risk profile.
So scientifically, how do we quantify use? Does smoking a cigarette once per month make the person a smoker? Shouldn’t the definition be the same for smoke-free products so we can properly compare them? Also important: how can we talk about multiple product use in a way that addresses the products’ relative risks?
In this 4th PMI Open Science Event, we have taken a closer look at all these issues and more, first in a round table discussion with three of our leading scientific experts and then in our live Q&A. You can watch a replay of the discussion on the challenges of measuring the use of nicotine-containing products.