All Stakeholders Can Contribute to Achieving Smoke-free Future – PMI 

About 27 million smokers have adopted smoke free products around the world. To sustain this progress and record more success, all stakeholders such as the media, public health experts and the general public need to play their role in ensuring those who are still using combustion tobacco can switch to safer alternatives, Philip Morris International believes.

Since 2008, PMI has invested over 10.5 billion United States Dollars to develop, scientifically substantiate and commercialize smoke free products which currently have a presence in 82 markets.

PMI Vice President International Communications and Engagement Tomasso Di Giovanni recalls time before the introduction of smoke-free products by the company.

PMI Vice President, Tommaso Di Giovanni

“There was a time when I would answer most of the media enquiries saying sorry but sadly I have nothing to say about this topic, simply, because there wasn’t much to say about the cigarette because it causes diseases and is addictive. Full stop. But now we are in a different world and in this world, science and research has proven to be better.

“We need to continue to talk about the benefits of smoke free products because they are needed by millions of people whose health is at risk of many diseases due to combustion.

“We need to explain simply because the public is still very confused about tobacco harm reduction and the last thing you want is for that confusion to push the public to use cigarettes over better alternatives”, Mr Di Giovanni stressed a point. 

He adds, “We are doing our best to move forward with a very bold ambition and we have made a lot of progress. Today 27 million smokers have abandoned smoking. We can make more progress if everyone including the media, public health stakeholders and the general public play their role.”

Mr Di Giovanni however says communicating to consumers about product benefits depends on regulation in respective countries.

He says there are countries where communicating the benefits of the products has been made easier because the legislative environment has adapted to the new products while there are still some restrictions in some regions.

Mr Di Giovanni says this is where communication with the media and through other avenues such as scientific events, scientific publications, media events and conferences is key to make sure that the subject is understood.

“That’s where one on one communication with consumers and the general public is paramount. We realized when we embarked on this journey that the vast majority of people do not know about smoke free products. They do not understand the basic principles of smoke free products or the role of combustion in generating diseases and there is a lot of confusion and skepticism around smoke free innovations. We decided from the very beginning to be bold and simply talk about those things in any possible forum which ranges from scientific events, scientific publications down to mainstream media events and conferences because we want to make sure that certain things are understood.

Mr Di Giovanni says with the vast majority of people still believing that nicotine is the primary cause of smoking related diseases, there is need to change this perception.

He says though it is true that nicotine is addictive, it is not the primary cause of diseases and for as long as this perception is not corrected, people will never understand the value of heated tobacco alternatives because they too contain nicotine.

“So we communicate and try to explain that. We also try to talk a lot about the science and product development because we want to make sure that governments and others understand it, understand its value, and then help in accelerating positive change. So it is really about awareness and ensuring that all stakeholders understand what is happening and embrace positive change,” Mr Di Giovanni added.

He says with the products being scientifically proven, care is also taken when communicating the benefits to ensure highest standards of accuracy are upheld and that there are also policies within the company that ensure any staff member follows the same standards when communicating to the general public.

“That includes for instance accuracy on the health effects of the products. You may realise that if you buy any of our packs, there is always communication about the risk of the product but also the potential benefits based on science,” Mr Di Giovanni explained.

Mr Di Giovanni adds that in order to ensure messages are appealing only to the intended audiences who are the smoking community and not minors or non-smoking adults, pre market and post market research is done because the idea is to sensitise those who are already smoking and provide them with safer alternatives, and not to introduce new people to smoking.

“We ensure that our communication is not appealing to minors or people who do not smoke because we don’t want them to actually start using those products. It is those who are already smoking that we want to reach with safe alternatives. And in general, we are bold about how we talk to the general public about the potential benefits because we want things to change. Otherwise, people will continue using cigarettes which is the worst thing they can do for their health,” he said.

He has explained that through dialogue, PMI will endeavor to answer all the questions and that is why talking to the media is extremely important.

He says traditional media in any democratic country are the in between those who have the information and those who need it.

“The media also plays a role to filter and ensure the accuracy of information that is given out to the publics, and that is important for us. So of course if you want to make sure that accurate information is shared with the public, you do need to engage with the media,” he added.

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