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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Cigarette sales could end in many countries ‘within 10-15 years’, says tobacco giant Philip Morris

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

In this century, especially in these COVID times, businesses of all types and sizes have started to look beyond the strict confines of their product, service, and supply chains for new ways to meet the evolving needs of their consumers and communities, and the planet that houses us all.

Vitally, they are doing so responsibly and respectfully. I am convinced that this sense of solidarity will stay with us long after the current pandemic is over.

COVID-19 is far from the only challenge calling out for pragmatic solutions. From climate change to food security, we need fact-based conversations and a collaborative, multinational, multi-stakeholder approach to deliver change.

And we need to be able to rely on information grounded in science and thorough data analysis.

Whether we are talking about vaccines, carbon emissions, or tobacco harm reduction, science and empirical data must inform policies and behaviours.

A smoke-free future: Combustible cigarettes replaced

For Philip Morris International (PMI), science has changed our company and is transforming our industry. Today, PMI is a science and technology−minded company developing and making available science-backed smoke-free products as an alternative to cigarettes.

While not risk-free, these products are a significantly better choice for those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke. Thanks to the efforts of our company leaders over the past decade, we are well on our way to delivering a smoke-free future – a world where cigarettes have been replaced by less harmful alternatives that do not involve burning and smoke.

We are the only tobacco manufacturer committed to replacing cigarettes completely- and as fast as possible. To that end, we have invested more than $ 8.1 billion (€ 9.57 billion) in developing better, science-based alternatives that do not rely on the principle of burning.

Our strategy is working. In the quarter ended June 30, 2021, smoke-free products accounted for almost 30 percent of our total net revenues globally. By 2025, we aim to be a majority smoke-free business generating at least 50 percent of net revenues from these products.

Delivering a smoke-free future is not a vague declaration. That statement of mission represents a large-scale, measurable effort to transform our business and the lives of tens of millions of men and women who currently smoke.

We can achieve this ambition much faster if everyone plays their role. In fact, with the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, we believe we can see an end to the sale of cigarettes in many countries within 10 to 15 years. And we are not stopping there.

Beyond nicotine: Medical and wellness applications

The science and technology we have developed and acquired in recent years allow us to look beyond nicotine and expand into products and solutions that will have a positive impact on society. Building on the company’s investment and expertise in aerosol chemistry and physics, device technology, clinical research, and best-in-class preclinical safety and inhalation models, PMI is developing a pipeline focused on inhaled therapeutics for medical and wellness applications.

By 2025, it is our ambition that ‘Beyond Nicotine’ products will generate at least $1 billion (€ 1.18 billion) in revenues. Science, technology, and sustainability are at the heart of PMI’s future.

We are also taking every opportunity to shine light on facts and science and expose distortions and disinformation. We do this by seeking to engage all stakeholders – not least, our critics – in productive dialogue, including through our Open Science conference series, webinars, and media outreach.

We do this by openly sharing our progress through our annual Integrated Report, disclosing our science and data through PMIscience.com, and publishing the results of our clinical studies in peer-reviewed journals.

Open communication with critics the way forward

And we do this by refusing to give in to the temptation to match hate with hate, anger with anger. If, as a society, we are to make traction against disinformation – whether regarding tobacco harm reduction, COVID-19 vaccinations, or anything else – we need to dial back the rhetoric and contentiousness and focus instead on civil communication and on understanding not just what mistruths an individual or organisation believes, but why.

It is inevitable that our transformation will face skepticism and be hindered by misconceptions. We believe that the best way to counter falsehoods and hesitancy is by being open and transparent and sharing our views with as many people as possible, encouraging them to embrace positive change.

To continue to drive progress as a society, we must focus on our commonalities rather than on what divides us. We must rely on science and facts over misinformation and dogma. We must remain accountable and open to solutions, regardless of their origin.

The challenges our world faces in 2021 are immense and complex. They will be solved neither quickly nor unilaterally. Rather, the pace and extent of our collective success will depend on the ability of all parties – government, the private sector, and civil society – to work together to innovate, adapt, pivot, and find better paths forward. This collaboration must start with recognising our joint responsibility and making a commitment to work together to effect change.

Although we are leaders in other areas of sustainability, too, we recognise at PMI that the most significant impact we can have is by reducing the harm of cigarettes. That must be our first priority. Less harmful alternatives now exist. Adults who smoke deserve access to these products and to non-misleading information about them.

As a company committed to transformative change, we are doing our part, but we cannot achieve a smoke-free future alone. We ask others- including policymakers- to play their role and help accelerate a long-due shift. The progress we have made is real, with an estimated 14.7 million adults worldwide already having switched to our leading heated tobacco product and stopped smoking as of June 2021.

Let’s work together to grow that number as quickly as possible.

  • Marian Salzman is a senior vice president of global communications at Philip Morris International

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