Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE: PM) today released a white paper titled “Unsmoke: Clearing the Way for Change” based on findings from a major international study conducted for the company by independent research firm Povaddo.
There is no question that, while the best choice is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether, the reality is that many people don’t. The survey—conducted in 13 countries including Australia among adults aged 21 to 74—forms the basis of the paper’s exploration around two core themes: the impact of smoking on personal relationships and the lack of information available about smoke-free products. It reveals some of the barriers that might be preventing smokers from considering smoke-free alternatives over continued smoking.
Smoke-free products, such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco products do not burn and do not produce smoke, have the potential to emit significantly lower levels of harmful chemicals.
Unfortunately, Australians are not given this option as Australia is the only OECD country other than Turkey that effectively prohibits the sale of these products. It’s time the Australian government legalised smoke-free products to give adult smokers a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.
In Australia, official statistics show that despite some of the world’s strictest tobacco control measures, the smoking rate has remained relatively similar since 2014.
Findings from the Australian whitepaper survey revealed that 82 per cent of respondents agreed it was important for the government to dedicate time and resources to reducing smoking rates and that a better conversation with smokers was needed.
An overwhelming majority (83 per cent) of Australian respondents said regulation and taxation alone would not succeed in making a country smoke-free while 87 per cent said smokers should have access to and accurate information about smoke-free products.
Only 43 per cent of Australians said they had the information needed to make an informed choice about smoke-free products while 70 per cent said tobacco companies could play a role in working with governments, regulators and public health experts to ensure smokers had the appropriate information about those products.
“There is currently a tremendous amount of misinformation circulating about smoke-free products, and this is causing confusion. It is one of the biggest hurdles the world faces in becoming smoke-free,” said Jacek Olczak, chief operating officer at PMI.
“The reality is there are better options available to adult smokers who don’t quit. There urgently needs to be a new global conversation—based on scientific research and facts—about these alternatives.”
Untruths and Consequences
The white paper looks at the public appetite for a better conversation around how to make cigarettes a thing of the past—it’s a desire that’s not being fulfilled. While four in five respondents agreed that change is needed, just over half of the adult smokers surveyed (55 percent) said they have the information they need to make an informed choice about smoke-free products. In Israel, only one in four (25 percent) said they have all the information they need. Compare that with Hong Kong (66 percent), Italy (64 percent) and Brazil (62 percent)—the difference is pronounced.