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An important year for Tobacco Harm Reduction

Never has Tobacco Harm Reduction been more important. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health bodies are beginning to shift their focus back onto broader health issues and determine how they can optimise their resources to improve outcomes at a national level. Minimising the harm caused by cigarettes continues to be a major challenge that many authorities are trying to tackle, with some countries, such as the UK, setting themselves ambitious targets to eliminate cigarettes entirely1. The real question is, how can they effectively deliver on this goal?

We know from previous examples, such as the prohibition of alcohol in the US, that simply banning popular consumer products does not work and has the potential to result in even greater harm as people seek alternative, and sometimes illegal, ways to access them.

Minimising the harm caused by cigarettes continues to be a major challenge that many authorities are trying to tackle
a hand holding a tobacco heating product

Based on this experience and other evidence, we believe that the most effective way to tackle this issue is not through prohibition, but by strengthening and furthering the reach of Tobacco Harm Reduction policies. Policies that are progressive, forward-looking and, most importantly, backed up by robust scientific evidence, that must be created and embedded into stakeholder agendas and broader society.

Policies that are progressive, forward-looking and, most importantly, backed up by robust scientific evidence
a scientist working in the lab
a woman in a red shirt holidng a tobacco heating product

The reality is that people continue to smoke despite being aware of the health risks associated with doing so. Despite the efforts of tobacco control and wide-spread awareness of the harm caused by smoking, over a billion people worldwide continue to smoke.

These are smokers who could benefit from access to alternative products that can effectively deliver nicotine and provide a reduced-risk alternative*† to smoking. It is this group of people for whom effective Tobacco Harm Reduction policy matters most.

At BAT, we have a clear purpose — to build A Better TomorrowTM by reducing the health impact of our business. Our goal is to develop new products, backed by science, that provide adult smokers with enjoyable, less risky* alternatives to smoking.

Tobacco Harm Reduction is a vital part of our transformation journey and is embedded in the core of our business.

gloved hands working on a tobacco heating product

We are steadfast in our position that the best thing people can do to protect their health is to not start smoking or to quit smoking. We encourage those who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch completely to a scientifically substantiated, reduced-risk alternative*. Products that provide nicotine but do not involve combustion (the burning of tobacco) emit far fewer and lower levels of toxicants compared to conventional cigarettes and have the potential to be significantly less harmful to health.

a man putting a tobacco heating product to his mouth

In the UK, Public Health England has published a series of expert reviews of the latest evidence, drawing on peer-reviewed literature, surveys and other reports, concluding: “based on current knowledge, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking”2.

less harmful than smoking2

Increased availability of scientifically-substantiated, less risky* products, such as vapour products, tobacco heating products and modern oral products will be crucial to enable effective Tobacco Harm Reduction.

Regulations should recognise the role that these alternatives can play in harm reduction by ensuring that high quality product standards are enforced, that consumers have access to information to make informed choices and, critically, that underage use is prevented.

a vape next to someone's hands typing on a laptop

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Kingsley Wheaton, called for a ‘whole of society’ approach to Tobacco Harm Reduction when he delivered a keynote speech at this year’s Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum, in London.

He urged the scientific and regulatory communities to work together to help make Tobacco Harm Reduction a reality, and reiterated the key elements of a five-point framework which could help to maximise results:

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1. An evidence-based approach

allowing robust science to lead to greater consumer choice, quality and confidence.

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2. Proportionate regulation

where science-based evidence and risk are understood and differentiated to guide regulatory policy.

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3. Freedom to innovate

to ensure products can evolve to meet changing consumer preferences.

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4. Engagement, dialogue and communication

to ensure regulators and consumers can make
well-informed decisions.

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5. Responsible marketing freedoms

that facilitate the acceleration of movement of consumers from combustible to non-combustible products.

At BAT, we advocate for a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach to advance Tobacco Harm Reduction. We want to see meaningful change in the development of tobacco and nicotine policy.

Industry, government, scientists, regulators and governing bodies must come together in order to create effective Tobacco Harm Reduction policy that is based on evidence and supports the role alternatives can play for those who would otherwise continue to smoke.  This is not something that can be tackled by one group alone.

Engagement, dialogue and communication among all parties is what is required in the development of effective policy. By adopting a more inclusive stakeholder approach to Tobacco Harm Reduction, we hope that greater progress can be made and we can accelerate the switch away from smoking for the more than one billion people who smoke worldwide.

a woman standing by a river holding a tobacco heating product

* Based on the weight of evidence and assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products are not risk free and are addictive.

† Our products as sold in the US, including Vuse, Velo, Grizzly, Kodiak, and Camel Snus, are subject to FDA regulation and no reduced-risk claims will be made as to these products without agency clearance.

1. Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s – consultation document. July 2019. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care - VIEW LINK

2. McNeill A, Brose LS, Calder R, Bauld L, Robson D. Vaping in England: an evidence update including mental health and pregnancy, March 2020: a report commissioned by Public Health England. London: Public Health England, 2020