Calls on regulators internationally to follow the example of the U.K. and lessen the impact of income inequality on access to better alternatives than continued smoking
Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE: PM) announced its support of the U.K. government’s plan to simplify the pathway to license electronic cigarettes and other inhaled nicotine-containing products (NCPs) as medicines in England. The U.K. already has one of Europe’s lowest smoking rates, supported by a high rate of smokers who have switched to better alternatives. This proposal makes the U.K. the first country in the world to encourage the medical licensing of e-cigarettes via prescription as a route to further lower smoking rates, particularly among low-income smokers.
Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary, announced that this will “tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background.” The announcement notes that “e-cigarettes contain nicotine and are not risk-free, but expert reviews from the U.K. and U.S. have been clear that the regulated e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking.” Importantly, this measure is not taken in isolation but complements existing policies to encourage switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes as a way to accelerate the transition to a smoke-free U.K. The U.K. government recognizes the role of e-cigarettes supporting those trying to quit, with 27.2% of smokers using them compared with 18.2% using nicotine replacement therapy products1.
Gregoire Verdeaux, Senior Vice President, External Affairs at Philip Morris International commented:
“The U.K. is a global leader in medicine, science and public health. Expert scientific reviews in the U.K. and U.S. are clear that smoke-free alternatives—such as e-cigarettes—offer adults who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes a better alternative. We welcome the U.K. government’s continued recognition that regulated e-cigarettes and other inhaled nicotine-containing products, while not risk-free, are less harmful than smoking and can significantly benefit public health.
“The U.K. government’s progressive approach to tobacco harm reduction has already contributed to a high number of smokers using better alternatives like e-cigarettes to move away from cigarettes2, and also one of Europe’s lowest smoking rates3. This newly simplified, regulated prescription pathway brings an additional opportunity to help those in the poorer areas of England—where smoking prevalence is disproportionately high—abandon cigarettes.
“The U.K. government also recognizes the importance of differentiated taxation of non-prescription smoke-free products, incentivizing adult smokers who don’t quit tobacco and nicotine altogether to switch to less harmful alternatives by taxing the most harmful products—cigarettes—the most, and less harmful non-combustible alternatives, the least.
“Income inequality affects smoking rates across the globe—smokers in lower income households are less likely to have access to these smoke-free alternatives. As representatives from health ministries across the globe are shortly set to gather for an international meeting on tobacco control, we hope that other governments and regulators recognize the additional actions that the U.K. government is taking to offer better alternatives to adults who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes.”
PMI agrees that smoke-free products—under clear regulations and thorough scientific assessments—while not risk-free, are less harmful than continued smoking and can significantly benefit the public health. Regulators can decisively accelerate the achievement of a future without cigarettes through risk-proportionate regulations for all nicotine-containing consumer products. A growing number of countries—including the US, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria—have recognized this approach and implemented differentiated regulation for noncombustible alternatives. Many others are debating changes to their regulation. All men and women who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes, regardless of their income level and where they live, should have access to and accurate information about products that are a better alternative.
Whilst PMI does not believe that smoke-free products should be sold exclusively in pharmacies, because access through a wide range of regulated channels is critical to adoption, the company welcomes a simplified, medicinal route implemented in addition to other comprehensive regulatory and supply measures to accelerate adoption of smoke-free products. The company further believes that a smoke-free future is attainable, and that this future can be achieved more rapidly if all stakeholders work collaboratively. Together with governments and civil society, the opportunity to rid the world of combustible cigarettes can be maximized through a consensus that smoke-free alternatives, when subject to proper government oversight and regulation, are part of a sound tobacco harm reduction policy.
Notes to Editors:
- E-cigarettes could be prescribed on the NHS in world first - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Adult smoking habits in the UK - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
- Smoking among adults | Health at a Glance: Europe 2020 : State of Health in the EU Cycle | OECD iLibrary (oecd-ilibrary.org)
Smoke-free products in the U.K.
- The U.K. has a well-established consumer market for smoke-free products, having developed over the past decade.
- The U.K. e-cigarette market is diverse, with estimates suggesting there are around 3.6 million vapers in Great Britain. (Use-of-e-cigarettes-vapes-among-adults-in-Great-Britain-2021.pdf (ash.org.uk))
- U.K. authorities take an evidence-based approach to e-cigarettes to date, with Public Health England concluding that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking ((2015) E-cigarettes: an evidence update - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)).
- Over the last 5 years, other categories of smoke-free alternatives have also grown in the U.K., such as the Heated Tobacco category where there are now two competitor products on the market, including PMI’s IQOS which has been the U.K.’s number one smoke-free product since June 2020 (Nielsen data).
Philip Morris International: Delivering a Smoke-Free Future
Philip Morris International (PMI) is leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, society, the company, its shareholders, and other stakeholders. PMI is a leading international tobacco company engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes, as well as smoke-free products, associated electronic devices and accessories, and other nicotine-containing products in markets outside the U.S. In addition, versions of PMI’s IQOS Platform 1 device and consumables have received marketing authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) pathway; the FDA has also authorized the marketing of a version of IQOS and its consumables as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP), finding that an exposure modification order for these products is appropriate to promote the public health. PMI is building a future on a new category of smoke-free products that, while not risk-free, are a much better choice than continuing to smoke. Through multidisciplinary capabilities in product development, state-of-the-art facilities, and scientific substantiation, PMI aims to ensure that its smoke-free products meet adult consumer preferences and rigorous regulatory requirements. PMI’s smoke-free product portfolio includes heat-not-burn products, nicotine-containing vapor products, and oral nicotine products. As of September 30, 2021, PMI’s smoke-free products are available for sale in 70 markets in key cities or nationwide, and PMI estimates that approximately 14.9 million adults around the world have already switched to IQOS and stopped smoking. For more information, please visit www.pmi.com and www.pmiscience.com.
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