Tobacco companies reject electronic cigarettes

"Authorities have a responsibility to encourage alternatives"

E-cigarettes and other smoke-free products would save the lives of many smokers. But the largest tobacco companies still choose to focus on traditional cigarettes. This is according to the new Tobacco Transformation Index. 

Tobacco companies are poor at producing and marketing products that reduce the harm caused by smoking. This is according to a new barometer that measures how companies invest in smoke-free nicotine products such as snus and e-cigarettes.

"Despite commitments and pledges to move to less harmful products, 95 per cent of the sales of the top 15 companies are still traditional cigarettes," says Derek Yach, chairman and founder of the Foundation for a Smoke Free World, the organisation behind the project. Tobacco Transformation Index.

Pensions drive tobacco companies

The Tobacco Transformation Index is being launched as a way to influence the development of harm reduction in the tobacco and nicotine industry. It aims to give investors, health organisations and policy makers a clear picture of what tobacco companies are actually doing to reduce the harm caused by their products.

"Banks and pension funds account for 85 per cent of investments in publicly traded tobacco companies. They have a great opportunity to drive the development of harm reduction products, which affect the health of the world's smoking population," says Mr Yach.

8 million deaths per year from smoking

According to the Foundation for a smokefree world, 1.3 billion people use tobacco worldwide. And of these, 8 million die from smoking-related diseases. Every year.

"Smoking cessation and harm reduction products would greatly reduce the number of deaths in the coming decades," says Derek Yach.

Authorities have a major responsibility

According to Derek Yach, the index list is part of a wider strategy to reduce smoking in the world. But it is not enough for the tobacco industry to invest in less harmful products. Governments, especially those who have signed the WHO Tobacco Convention, have an important responsibility.

"Real progress will only happen when all tobacco companies start phasing out cigarettes themselves. But for that to work, governments need to legislate smartly to promote alternatives. The WHO can help by encouraging tobacco harm reduction," says Derek Yach.

Prohibition an obstacle

But as it stands today, the WHO and many other organisations a very negative attitude towards e-cigarettes. This affects all countries, but especially low-income countries where smoking is most prevalent. But also different forms of bans on e-cigarettes as in Denmark, The Netherlands, USA and India become direct obstacles to development. Something that only favours cigarette sales, says Derek Yack.

"We need better strategies to address the harm caused by cigarettes and toxic tobacco products. With a common harm reduction strategy, we can change the direction of the tobacco industry. This would save many lives. But it is frustratingly slow," said Mr Yach.

Snus and e-cigs increase slowly

Not surprisingly, the company that invests most in harm reduction, in terms of marketing and sales, is Swedish Match. Snus sales account for almost half of their sales. They are followed by Philip Morris International, whose sales of lower-risk products account for 19 per cent of the total. Brittish American Tobacco comes third with 5 per cent.

The Tobacco Transformation Index is based on 35 different indicators provided by companies, including marketing, sales and research budgets. The list is updated every two years.
The Foundation for a Smoke Free World is a foundation dedicated to working towards a smoke free world within a generation. The Foundation was established with the help of a grant from Philip Morris International in 2018, but operates and makes decisions independently of its donor.


Tobacco Transformation Index

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