Nicotine consumers dismayed with continued discrimination and marginalization

Nicotine consumers have expressed disappointment with their continued discrimination or marginalization in decision and policymaking processes by global decision and policymakers in the tobacco harm reduction (THR) interventions.

A recent study by Philip Morris International (PMI) has established that only 2 in 10 (20 percent) of nicotine consumers feel their voices are heard or considered while 4 in 10 believe they are being discriminated against or marginalized.

PMI is  leading a transformation in the tobacco industry to create a smoke-free future and ultimately replace cigarettes with smoke-free products to the benefit of public health and adults who would otherwise continue to smoke.

Its international survey, fielded across 22 countries with participation of over 44, 000 adults, is one of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted related to tobacco harm reduction.

PMI says it found that 77 percent of nicotine consumers feel that their voices have been excluded for too long and that a new approach to regulation is needed to better balance the voices of nicotine consumers and those who don’t consume such products. 

“74 percent of nicotine consumers feel that their views should be considered by policymakers when deciding on tobacco and nicotine regulations. Regarding tobacco policy, those who would benefit the most and are directly impacted by tobacco regulations and do not feel like they have a seat at the table,” reads part of the report.

PMI further states that 8 in 10 respondents believe that if people and companies work together, they can have a meaningful impact on the biggest issues facing society today. It says having balanced and inclusive discussions about science, products, and policies, can help accelerate the end of smoking with contemporary policies and a people-centric approach.

“However, when it comes to listening to nicotine consumers and considering tobacco harm reduction policies as part of a wider strategy to address the global public health issue of smoking, smokers and their views are often ignored or discounted.

“In our survey, we found that 4 in 10 nicotine consumers feel discriminated against or marginalized. Only 2 in 10 nicotine consumers feel their voices are heard or considered,” the survey findings say.

PMI states that in driving toward a balanced approach, existing measures aimed at preventing smoking initiation and promoting smoking cessation can be complemented by strategies that enable adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to have access to and information about science-based alternatives. 

It adds that inclusion of a harm reduction approach in policies aimed at decreasing smoking prevalence has the potential to foster more rapid declines and can allow for progress in the realm of public health. 

However, 54 percent of respondents believed that conversations about science and the latest scientific developments have become more divisive. 

“Yet, despite the increasing debate and scepticism about the validity of science and facts, there is in an appetite from the public to come together and find solutions rather than roadblocks. In fact, taking an “all or nothing” approach can be counterproductive, particularly when it comes to tobacco harm reduction. 75 percent of respondents agree that societal expectations of total abstinence from harmful behaviours such as tobacco usage and alcohol consumption are not feasible and the government should take steps to reduce the harm of these behaviours. 

“However, only 1 in 4 people believe that ALL you need is regulation and taxation of cigarettes to make a country smoke-free. 65 percent of respondents agree that encouraging adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to completely switch to smoke-free alternative products can complement other efforts to reduce the societal harm caused by smoking cigarettes. 62 percent of exclusive smokers stated that they would more likely consider switching to alternative products like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco products if they had clarity on how these products differ from cigarettes and the science behind them,” stresses that report.

PMI recommends that as stakeholders consider policies that regulate tobacco usage, governments should consider the needs of all parties, including nicotine consumers, emphasizing that finding a balanced approach to tobacco regulation that encourages incremental progress can help bring together all groups and have a meaningful impact on public health.

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