Group Head of Business Communications at British American Tobacco (BAT), Jonathan Atwood, says tobacco harm reduction presents the opportunity for a more progressive environment where both tobacco harm reduction and the role of nicotine are far better understood.
Atwood made the sentiments in a keynote speech he read on behalf of Kingsley Sanchez at this year’s Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF), which took place in Seoul.
He said tobacco harm reduction also gives consumers the opportunity to freely switch out cigarettes for alternative products.
But Atwood pointed out that for tobacco harm reduction to work, there is a need to level the playing field of smarter regulation, better enforcement, a consistent and compelling science foundation and the collective desire to help shape a sustainable future together for consumers.
“When I talk about smarter regulation, I mean regulation that is evidence-based, consultative by nature, and achieves its policy aims while also avoiding unintended consequences. Greater partnership is required to achieve this. We must we must join forces externally with regulators and policymakers to try and create catalysts for positive change,” he said.
Atwood observed that there is a lot of confusion as to the way forward on harm reduction.
He said right from consumers, doctors and regulators, there is confusion on what they need to enforce the laws that govern the industry.
At this point, he challenged that if smoke-free ambitions are to be met, players need to take difficult decisions to change the behaviour of the smokers.
“However, it is consumer choice that offers the greatest hope for making a cigarette obsolete. Why? Because people are not told what to do, but are given freedom over their decision to quit smoking or to switch to smoking alternatives, a choice we know can be messy. It can give rise to unexpected results, things that neither business nor governments predicted,” said Atwood.
He called for smarter regulation to strike a balance between harm reduction and avoiding unintended consequences, particularly when it comes to underage access in the environment, and that penalises reckless players in the market that do not play by the rules.
He said as the world’s largest vapor company, BAT takes responsibility to suggest ways that governments might deliver on their aims for smoke-free 2030.
“At BAT, our ambition for tobacco harm reduction is bold, yet achievable by 2030. We aspire to have 50 million consumers of our non-combustible products. This number encapsulates not just a shift in consumer behaviour, but a shift in societal norms and public health paradigms and then the narrative that is often surrounded our industry. We have already set the wheels in motion,” he said, adding that there are now 24 million consumers of their non-combustible products.
“But this is just the beginning, a precursor to the transformational journey that lies ahead. And across the world, there are examples of where tobacco harm reduction is bringing real change. The US Food and Drug Administration’s recognition that certain marketing of certain products is appropriate for the protection of public health has set in motion a sea change in behaviour. For example, when we talk of smoke-free targets, the generally accepted metric for this is the cigarette prevalence below 5% based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey from the CDC, in the US, for those aged 18 to 24,” narrated Atwood.