british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2011 - Engagement

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Sustainability Report 2011

Our work to develop reduced-risk products will be pointless if we cannot successfully bring them to market. So we are engaging with the scientific community and regulators to build support for tobacco harm reduction as a pragmatic public health policy.

EngagementWe are trying to build support for a broader approach to tobacco harm reduction by making presentations at scientific conferences, publishing our research in peer-reviewed journals and engaging with the scientific and public health communities.

At the heart of our approach is the belief that we must always be transparent about our science, making it publicly available for review by other experts and scientists. We publish details of our scientific research on Opens in new window and contribute to debates around tobacco harm reduction through conferences and journals.

In 2011, we carried out research into views on tobacco harm reduction among healthcare professionals in the UK, Sweden and Norway. We asked a representative sample what they thought about tobacco use, approaches to quitting and smoking reduction, their understanding of the risks of nicotine and the key factors associated with the health risks of smoking.

Most advocated a ‘complete cessation’ approach to tobacco use, rather than broader harm reduction strategies. Some held inaccurate views on what it is about cigarette smoking that poses serious risks to health. For example, many wrongly believed nicotine to be as harmful as tobacco smoke, when in fact it is toxicants in the tobacco and tobacco smoke that are responsible for most smoking-related diseases. Given the expertise of those surveyed, this general lack of understanding was surprising.

Another surprising result was that a number of those interviewed in Sweden were unaware of the impact of snus use on public health. A substantial number of Swedish men switching from cigarette smoking to snus use coincided with a lower rate of male lung cancer in the country than any comparable developed nation. Oral cancer rates also decreased and cardiovascular health significantly improved.

This research has highlighted the need to raise awareness about the different risk profiles of cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products and nicotine products.


We believe tobacco product regulation should be underpinned by sound scientific evidence and developed through transparent and accountable consultation with all relevant stakeholders. Our extensive experience in tobacco science means that we could make a valuable contribution to the development of tobacco harm reduction policy. We have encountered resistance to this in the past, but are beginning to see more opportunities opening up for us to contribute, as well as some governments starting to take broader approaches to tobacco harm reduction.

In 2011, our Chief Scientific Officer sat on the expert panel of a workshop held by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on developing scientific standards for the evaluation of modified risk tobacco products. The FDA’s approach is inclusive and evidence-based, something we strongly support.

The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is developing guidance on harm reduction approaches to smoking. It sought contributions through a consultation process involving a range of stakeholders from across society, including the tobacco industry. We welcomed the opportunity to contribute and responded with our views.

Attended and presented at

Key conferences

including the annual conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco and the Society of Toxicology

There are many challenges associated with bringing potentially reduced-risk products to market, many of which are discussed in this Report. We have seen evidence of engagement with the regulatory and scientific communities and some public health bodies on the topic of harm reduction. Despite this engagement, public health policies remain targeted at prevention and cessation efforts, illustrating the continued importance of stakeholder engagement if further support for harm reduction is to be progressed.


Applying harm reduction principles to public health policies on tobacco/nicotine is more than simply a rational and humane policy... It has the potential to lead to one of the greatest public health breakthroughs in human history by fundamentally changing the forecast of a billion cigarette-caused deaths this century.

Sweanor, D., Alcabes, P., Ducker, E. (2007), ‘Tobacco harm reduction: How rational public health policy could transform a pandemic’. International Journal of Drug Policy, 18 (2), 70–74

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