“One of the most important public health debates in recent decades: To redefine the place of nicotine in society and in the law, and make room for recreational nicotine products”
Professor Jean-Francois Etter
There are many strands to the debate about the future of tobacco and we do not think it is as simple as suggesting that the combustible market disappears or that everything moves to electronic delivery, two theories which have received attention over the last few years. Returning to the fundamental fallacy of demonic possession, there are very, very many cigarette smokers who are entirely happy with the choice that they have made and feel no compulsion to change. Because of this we believe that combustible cigarettes will remain an important, and probably the most important, part of the tobacco industry for very many years to come.
In the realms of harm reduction, however, it is now a number of the leading tobacco companies which are making the running on both the scientific front but also in taking that science into products for consumers. The critics of the industry will, no doubt, argue that this is simply the latest part of the “grand conspiracy” but the fact is that as far as the science of tobacco goes it is the tobacco companies which have the funds and the inclination to carry on the scientific research required. As we have discussed above, the science of tobacco smoke has not become any easier over the years while the financial incentive to research it has waned with the “all smoking is simply bad” message. As such a blanket view that any science that emanates from the industry must be “tainted” is churlish, we believe, and ignores the fact that outside of the tobacco industry little new research is being undertaken.
While it is certainly the case that there was a lull in industry efforts to pursue harm reduction, that claim simply holds no water today in our view. Since the late 1990s the tobacco companies, in our view not completely wisely, have made clear statements that smoking entails risk and can cause disease. Each of the tobacco majors has sought to develop products which aim at harm reduction in its various possible forms be it smokeless, heat-not-burn or electronic.
The motives for the industry to embrace harm reduction are, inevitably, questioned. We would perhaps question instead the motive for the industry not embracing harm reduction. According to the tobacco control lobby this is the same industry that lied in the past. Quite clearly it is not as no tobacco company today suggests that smoking does not carry risk. It is also the case that the current generation of senior management across the industry were born when the controversy regarding the potential health impacts of smoking rose to prominence in the 1950s or after. By the time any of them joined the industry, health warnings were already prevalent, the Readers Digest had long since published “Cancer in a Carton” and the Surgeon General had published 14 reports on the health consequences of smoking.
Perhaps the determination to see no change in the tobacco industry really stems from the need for Tobacco Controllers for consumers to continue to choose to smoke. To finish with a quote from Nietzsche “Whoever lives for the sake of combating an enemy has an interest in the enemy’s staying alive”.