Many consumers feel their voice is ignored when it comes to tobacco issues
Our business is about offering adult consumers high quality brands that we hope they will choose over competitors’ products. But selling tobacco products is not so simple. There are rightly high expectations of how we should go about our business, including amongst consumers.
We have listened and talked to consumers for some years in our social reporting dialogue. This has helped us to find out more about what they expect of us in terms of responsibility and what topics interest them most.
We know that consumers can be just as concerned as other stakeholders about tobacco issues, but that they often feel their voice is excluded in debates. This is particularly so on the topic of public place smoking restrictions or bans.
Consumers are sometimes surprised by the open communications they find on this website, and tell us they welcome it. So in this part of the site we aim to talk about topics that are relevant or important to consumers and provide further links.
What consumers say
Health risks information
The communication of accurate health information about smoking has often been a key issue for consumers in dialogue. Many have said they agree that all packs should carry a health warning and that there should be open and straightforward information about the risks of smoking.
We see health authorities as the prime public voice for providing this important information and we also seek to make our views clear. Consumers and other visitors to our site have told us they welcome what they see as our openness about the health risks. See what you think in Health and science.
Consumers see work towards reducing the harm caused by tobacco products as a key priority for our industry. Some have told us that developing less harmful products is one of the most important things a tobacco company can do.
Harm reduction isn’t easy, but we’re trying. You can find out about our efforts in harm reduction and, in answer to the question ‘Is there a less harmful cigarette?’ about a long scientific journey we’re still pursuing.
There is a product that several independent health experts acknowledge as being much less harmful than smoking cigarettes and we’ve begun selling it in certain markets. Find out about smokeless snus and health.
Consumers have told us they want more tobacco product information and have shown great interest in ingredients publication. Many welcome our ingredients website , where they can find out, country by country, what’s in their brand.
In Tobacco and our products we aim to explain our business from the planting of tobacco seeds to the point of sale, including how cigarettes are designed, what ingredients are and more about smokeless snus.
We also asked our local companies whether and how they provided information on health risks to consumers in 2012.
Consumers also show great interest in how tobacco companies should market their products, with many strongly agreeing that this should be done responsibly and in a way that’s directed only at adults. Consumers and other visitors have noted that this site is not here to advertise or sell our brands.
We work hard to ensure that our companies market appropriately and only to adult tobacco consumers. Sometimes consumers don’t know that our companies work to strict standards that we set for their marketing worldwide, even when competitors don’t stick to similar standards and could put our companies at competitive disadvantage. Find out more about marketing and our International Marketing Principles.
Youth smoking prevention
Consumers express great concern about under-age smoking and welcome efforts to prevent it. In the UK, we heard strong support for our view that the minimum legal age for buying tobacco should be raised to 18 - something the Government has now done. Sometimes consumers are sceptical that we don’t want children to smoke. But we certainly don’t. We sell an adult product and want our consumers to be old enough to make an informed choice.
As well as setting restrictions on our marketing, we encourage our companies to lobby governments for a regulated minimum age of 18 for buying tobacco. Our companies also run or support youth smoking prevention programmes around the world, with more than 80 per cent of them helping retailers to block under-age access at the point of sale.
Public place smoking
This has been a key topic for consumers in dialogue and an issue where they feel their voice is often ignored. In the UK, we heard consumers recognising the need for restrictions of various kinds but saying that total bans, including for pubs, could make them feel like outcasts. They welcomed our support for ventilation to improve air quality and separate non-smoking / smoking accommodation schemes in the hospitality trade.
We support restrictions but believe that blanket bans on all indoor smoking in work and public places go too far. Read more about the kind of initiatives we support in Public place smoking and Comfortable outdoor spaces.
Consumers don’t always see this as a problem, but buying cheap smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes may be helping to fund international organised crime and terrorists. Should you be concerned? Find out more about illicit trade.
Consumers can be sceptical about tobacco companies, but many have given positive reactions to our corporate responsibility activities and have often told us they want to know more about them.
In Operating responsibly we aim to cover the ways we do business, including our principles and standards. It’s here that you’ll find our performance in Environment, occupational health and safety, what we think about regulation and lobbying, how we manage human rights and our community investments. You can also see what we’re doing in sustainability reporting and download our companies’ latest Sustainability Reports.
There are a small but growing number of organisations representing tobacco consumers’ interests plus associated websites and discussion fora. This includes FOREST in the UK, which we support.