We have a responsibility to seek to reduce the health risks of our products. Cigarette smoking is a cause of serious and fatal diseases and the only way to avoid the health risks associated with tobacco products is to not use them.
However, the World Health Organisation has estimated that, as the global population increases, so will the number of smokers worldwide. So developing reduced-risk products for those adults who choose to use tobacco products is a priority. There are many challenges in this: the science is complex; collaboration is needed between scientists, tobacco companies and regulators; products need to meet consumer expectations; and we need a regulatory framework that supports tobacco harm reduction.
Harm reduction is about finding practical ways to minimise the health impact of an inherently risky activity or behaviour, without seeking to stop it entirely. An example of harm reduction that is familiar to most of us is the use of seat belts and airbags in cars. The science of tobacco harm reduction is complex, extremely challenging and spans many scientific disciplines. Our annual R&D spend is significant, which reflects the continued importance we place in this work area.
Find out more about our harm reduction research programme
Regulatory policies based on discouraging people from starting to smoke and encouraging them to quit have been effective. We believe there could be further public health gains for the millions of adults globally who will continue to consume tobacco products if tobacco regulatory policies included harm reduction. However, few governments currently support this view.
As a manufacturer of tobacco products, we have a responsibility to pursue ways in which we might reduce the health risks of our products. Although nicotine is not completely harmless, contrary to what many people believe it is not associated with most tobacco-related diseases. There is widespread agreement in the scientific community that it is the toxicants in the tobacco and tobacco smoke that are responsible for the majority of these.
So on a ‘product risk continuum’ where products can be lined up in decreasing order of risk, conventional cigarettes can be considered most risky.
Our previous efforts at test marketing lower-risk products confirmed that a ‘one product fits all’ approach cannot achieve tobacco harm reduction, so our approach is to offer make available a range of reduced-risk tobacco and nicotine products for adult consumers:
Reduced toxicant cigarettes
It is well established that people who smoke more cigarettes a day and over a longer period of time have an increased risk of developing a smoking-related disease. So we are researching whether cigarettes with lower levels of toxicants in the tobacco smoke might lower health risks for those adults who don’t want to quit. Our approach is to:
- determine which toxicants in smoke are significant for disease and develop tools to measure smokers’ exposure to them;
- Develop products that may substantially reduce exposure to these significant toxicants and. Through clinical testing, demonstrate that they do; and
- Assess whether this reduction in exposure can reasonably be expected to reduce the risk of one or more specific diseases.
Low-toxicant smokeless tobacco
Certain low-toxicant smokeless tobacco products, such as Swedish-style snus, present substantially lower overall health risks than cigarette smoking.
Regulatory approved nicotine products
British American Tobacco has established Nicoventures Limited, a stand-alone company which is managed separately from the Group’s tobacco businesses and focuses exclusively on the development and commercialisation of innovative regulatory approved nicotine products.
Nicoventures aims to provide adult smokers with a range of alternative products - currently unavailable on the market - that will offer them much of the experience they expect to get from a cigarette but without the real and serious health risks of smoking.
The creation of Nicoventures is a natural extension of British American Tobacco’s approach to tobacco harm reduction that has been developed over a number of years.
In June 2011 Nicoventures announced its first commercial agreement. Further information can be found on the Nicoventures website .