29 April 2021

People have always taken part in activities with a certain degree of danger despite knowledge of the potential risk and hazards involved. For example, when people first started driving it was more dangerous. Over time, the automotive industry spearheaded safety technologies, while regulators introduced road safety legislations that have reduced the risks. This approach - aimed at eliminating or reducing as much as possible the negative effects rather than the activity itself - is the essence of harm reduction.  

The same idea applies to smoking. Despite being aware of the associated harm, over one billion smokers continue to use cigarettes worldwide. It is important to continue encouraging them to stop and, in fact, not to start in the first place. Some have tried multiple methods to stop and succeed, while others continue to smoke. That’s why a combined approach is needed – that includes offering better alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, which could help smokers to leave cigarettes behind.  

There are two aspects that can determine how much a tobacco product can cause harm to the population: how much harm the product causes, and whether smokers find the product acceptable to use or not. If we consider the scenario for cigarettes, we know the product harm is high, the acceptability by adult smokers is high, therefore harm to the population is high. If there’s a less harmful product compared to cigarettes, but smokers do not find it acceptable, only few will switch to this product, so there will not be a significant decrease in harm to the population either. If, however, they are offered a product that is less harmful compared to cigarettes and they find it acceptable, more will switch so there will be fewer smokers and population harm will be lowered.  

This can be translated into a harm reduction equation. At PMI, we believe this approach is key to benefit public health. That’s why we’ve shifted our focus towards offering better alternatives to cigarettes that are acceptable to adult smokers. And for more than a decade, we have had the expertise, innovation and the technology in place to develop and offer these products.  

Our goal is to provide a wide range of smoke-free alternatives with different characteristics, giving adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke a suite of products to choose from, addressing different preferences so they can fully switch. This will result in successfully decreasing the overall harm that smoking causes today, maximizing the public health benefit, and making a smoke-free future possible.   

Smoke-free alternatives are only for adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking. They are not risk-free and provide nicotine, which is addictive. The best choice any smoker can make is to quit tobacco and nicotine altogether.  

This video is for the purpose of publishing and disseminating scientific information about Philip Morris International’s efforts to develop and assess products that have the potential to reduce individual risk and population harm associated with tobacco use.