More than seven million people in the world still die from smoking each year. Even the tobacco industry no longer deny that it is their products that kill people. Now the industry claims to have created solutions that would improve the lives of smokers. “Anyone who denies that technology can help diminish the harmfulness of tobacco products opposes progress and deprives smokers of adapting a more health-conscious behaviour”, said Philip Morris Switzerland CEO Dominique Leroux recently in an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. For Philip Morris has a vision: a smoke-free world. However, by this Philip Morris does not mean renouncing tobacco products so that people won’t smoke anymore. “If Philip Morris International simply stops selling cigarettes, that does not change anything. The smokers would simply resort to another cigarette brand.” Philip Morris’s (and other manufacturers’) smoke-free “solution” simply means products that do not produce any smoke. Because heat-not-burn products such as Philip Morris’s IQOS heat the tobacco rather than burning it, much less harmful chemicals are produced, they argue. To the effect of “harm reduction”, prevention should focus on the protection against combustion toxins but not nicotine abstinence. As a result, Leroux demands that legislators should regulate heat-not-burn cigarettes or e-cigarettes differently than conventional tobacco cigarettes. Incidentally, this puts him in line with e-cigarette manufacturers such as Juul, which is not a coincidence, for 35% of Juul’s shares are held by Altria, the owner of Philip Morris.
With all the nice talk about trying to help smokers, it’s important to remember that smoking still causes so many fatalities because cigarette manufacturers are still aggressively promoting tobacco cigarettes in emerging and third world countries. And we are still dealing with a product that contains one of the most addictive drugs, nicotine, which among other things, increases the risk of heart and lung disease, gastrointestinal diseases, and decreased immune response, reduces reproductive health, and leads to cancer – and, of course, keeps the consumers hooked. A number of studies have already shown that neither heat-not-burn cigarettes nor e-cigarettes help smokers to improve their health. Heat-not-burn smoking devices and e-cigarettes produce similar carcinogens and toxins to traditional tobacco cigarettes, but just with vapour instead of smoke. The marketing strategies of the industry and the (sweet) flavourings in e-cigarettes are having the effect of sprucing up the badly damaged image of smoking, unfortunately, especially among young people.
So let not our minds become clouded. In our fact sheet, you can read why the claims of the tobacco industry are once more nothing but smoke and mirrors. However, we can agree with one statement of Philip Morris Switzerland’s CEO: “For consumers worried about their health, the best decision is to give up tobacco or nicotine consumption altogether – or even better never to start in the first place.”