Since the inception of the tobacco industry in the 1880s, the fundamentals of its main product have barely changed; innovation is not necessarily a word associated to this industry. Surprisingly, this has changed in recent years. Backed by science, technology and innovation the tobacco industry is undergoing one of the biggest transformations of the century looking to replace the product that has made it so widely successful.
Science has a long history of improving public health to reduce the potential risks associated with different activities. The examples are innumerable including the invention of the refrigerator to preserve food, or the incorporation of airbags in vehicles to avoid deaths from car accidents. So why not extend this same principle of reducing harm and risk, to reduce the risk of illnesses related to cigarette smoking - as a complement to avoiding initiation and supporting cessation?
Smoking is indisputably harmful to one’s health. Though this is widely known, it is not always clear why. Public health experts agree that it is the burning or combustion process, that occurs when a cigarette is lit, that generates smoke and releases the chemicals recognized as the main cause of smoking related diseases. Nicotine, on the other hand, although addictive and not risk-free, is not the origin of the pathologies.
If the harm reduction principle is applied to smoking, it means eliminating the burning process, and therefore addressing the root cause of smoking related diseases. Science and technology have led to the development of new smoke-free products that reduce these harmful chemicals by an average of 95%, compared to cigarette smoke. However, It does not necessarily equal a 95% reduction in risk. These smoke free products heat a tobacco unit or a nicotine containing e-liquid, which in turn releases aerosol containing nicotine and flavors. There is no fire, no smoke and no ash in smoke free products, and the aerosol produced does not affect air quality therefore eliminating second hand smoking.
Although the best option is to quit smoking or better yet, never start, the industry has now developed better options for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. Even though the vision of the industry is ambitious – replacing cigarettes with less harmful alternatives – it is the right thing to do.
The best contribution the tobacco industry can make to the future is to address the harm associated with its product, and they are taking the right steps in that direction. Backed by science and technology, with a strong commitment to transparency and open dialogue, and with the right support from policy makers, they believe they can accelerate this transformation in the benefit of public health.
This article is brought to you by Philip Morris International