Three Reasons Why Smoke-free Products Will Replace Cigarettes

Published Feb 14, 2024


The modern age of round-the-clock news feeds and social media influence has become a breeding ground for misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Audiences are growing weary and overwhelmed by the information overload, making people more susceptible to the attention-grabbing antics of those spreading falsehoods.

This is detrimental to society’s efforts to combat the many threats facing us, says Branislav Bibic, Managing Director at Philip Morris South Africa. “Disinformation and misinformation have a very real impact on people’s perceptions, choices, and behaviours. They erode our trust in facts, leading to confusion and poor decision-making.”

He cites smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes, by way of example. “Even when robust scientific evidence reveals that they can present less risk than continued smoking, these innovations are often at the centre of widespread campaigns designed to skew this core fact.”

The outcome, Bibic says, is that adult smokers are likely to be left perplexed, potentially preventing those who would otherwise continue to smoke from switching to a better alternative. “Denying these people access to accurate information about smoke-free products is not only a missed opportunity for them but, more widely, for public health,” he explains. “Yet, even among the noise and misleading distractions, the progress of smoke-free products will ultimately prevail.”

He says this is due to three key reasons:

1. A better and more widespread understanding of what causes smoking-related diseases has helped pave the way for the development of potentially less harmful alternatives.

Many once wrongly believed nicotine to be the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. In fact, he says, a cigarette, when burned, produces over 6,000 chemicals—around 100 of which have been identified as causes or potential causes of smoking-related diseases.

“Nicotine, although addictive and not risk-free, is NOT one of them,” he adds. “There is a ground swell of evidence demonstrating that smoke-free products which don’t burn tobacco are able to deliver nicotine without smoke and, when scientifically substantiated, can significantly reduce the levels of harmful chemicals compared to cigarette smoke.”

Of course, he cautions that these products are not risk-free and provide nicotine, which is addictive, but they’re demonstrably better than continuing to smoke cigarettes. “Enabling access to these products and accurate information about them will enable adult smokers who do not quit to change to a better alternative,” he says.

2. Investment in the technology driving the development of smoke-free products has also intensified as a direct result of this burgeoning support.

“Responding to calls from the likes of the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) to develop less toxic nicotine products, existing industry players and new entrants have invested in developing tobacco and nicotine products that do not burn tobacco,” Bibic explains. “With the availability of smoke-free products in many countries that cater to different taste, usage, and affordability needs, adults who would otherwise continue smoking now have a range of feasible options to help them leave cigarettes behind, permanently.”

3. More active and widely publicised debates on the merits of tobacco harm reduction and the evidence on smoke-free products are also helping to build unity.

These debates, he says, are being driven by the voices of experts, and are building unity in the fight to drive down smoking rates with increasing acceptance from some regulators.

“Policies are slowly being shaped by a risk-proportionate approach,” he adds. “This means cigarettes, the most harmful form of tobacco and nicotine use, continue to be regulated more strictly, while non-combustible alternatives are starting to be regulated and taxed in a more permissive manner.”

He adds that fair governmental regulation further drives acceptance, enabling adults to have access to potentially less harmful alternatives—and accurate information about them. “It also minimises the risk of unintended use of these products by minors and non-smokers,” he says. “This support from public health authorities, the medical and scientific communities, and regulators will accelerate the availability to adults of better alternatives to cigarettes, bringing a smoke-free future into sharper focus.”

He adds that the best decision is always to quit tobacco and nicotine products altogether. “However, only one in 10 successfully quit smoking, which means cessation efforts alone are not sufficient,” he explains. “For those hundreds of millions of adults who don’t quit, where is the logic in denying them the choice of switching to a smoke-free innovation substantiated by science to be a much better choice than continued smoking?”

“Compelling facts and evidence are reinforcing the positive impact these products are having, highlighting the critical role they could play in delivering change for millions of adult smokers—and, ultimately, the public health milestone of a smoke-free future,” he concludes.