British American Tobacco - BAT calls for smarter regulations to achieve smokefree ambitions

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20 September 2023

BAT calls for smarter regulations to achieve smokefree ambitions

BAT’s Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Kingsley Wheaton, has called for smarter regulation and greater collaboration in order for countries to achieve their smokefree ambitions.

In his keynote speech at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF) in Seoul, South Korea, Kingsley said: “For Tobacco Harm Reduction to work, we need a level playing field of smarter regulation, better enforcement, a consistent and compelling science foundation, and the collective desire to help shape a sustainable future together for consumers… We must join forces externally with regulators and policy makers to try and create catalysts for positive change if smokefree ambitions are to be met.”

Read Kingsley’s speech in full below.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s always a pleasure to address the GTNF and I want to thank the organisers for what I’m sure will be another excellent and enlightening event.

This year’s conference theme of ‘Change the Conversation, Change the Outcome’ is absolutely the right one. Why? Because as an industry, we stand at an important crossroads.

There is much confusion as to the way forward. Consumers are confused. Doctors are confused. Regulators are confused and are struggling to enforce the laws they have written.

What’s too often missed is the opportunity that Tobacco Harm Reduction presents. The opportunity for a more progressive environment where both Tobacco Harm Reduction and the role of nicotine is far better understood. The opportunity for consumers to freely switch out of cigarettes to alternative products. In essence, a switch to better.

For Tobacco Harm Reduction to work, we need a level playing field of smarter regulation, better enforcement, a consistent and compelling science foundation, and the collective desire to help shape a sustainable future together for consumers.

When I talk of smarter regulation, I mean regulation that is:

  • Evidence based;
  • Consultative by nature; and
  • Achieves its policy aims while also avoiding unintended consequences.

Greater partnership is required to achieve this. We must join forces externally with regulators and policy makers to try and create catalysts for positive change if smokefree ambitions are to be met.

Building a progressive environment for Tobacco Harm Reduction

Sustained and lasting changes to consumer behaviour are difficult. However, it is consumer choice that offers the greatest hope for making the cigarette obsolete.

Why? Because people are not told what to do, but given freedom over their decision to quit smoking or switch to smoking alternatives.

Choice though can be messy. It can give rise to unexpected results; things that neither business nor governments predicted.

As an example, take vaping and the emergence of single-use vapes. It is difficult to avoid the headlines that these products have given rise to.

It is clear to us that vapour products can and should be part of any government’s smokefree plans. Indeed, single-use vapes provide adult smokers with a convenient and accessible format that can accelerate Tobacco Harm Reduction. Consumers, through the use of these products, are telling us something.

However, we need smarter regulation to ensure two things:

  1. That the right balance is struck between harm reduction and avoiding unintended consequences, particularly when it comes to underage access or the environment; and
  2. That penalises reckless players in the market that don’t play by the rules.

Right now, we in this room are on the cusp of reshaping the landscape which, in turn, we hope will bring about a profound improvement in the quality of smokers’ lives on an unprecedented scale.

As the world’s largest Vapour company, I think it’s our responsibility to suggest ways that governments might deliver on their aims for a Smokefree 2030.

While every market is different in terms of what regulation can work, there are a number of areas surrounding vapour, and single-use vapes in particular, that could benefit from smarter regulation.

Before I get into the details of these, I want to highlight just how far both BAT and some countries have come in the pursuit of Tobacco Harm Reduction.

Tobacco Harm Reduction behaviour change is already happening

At BAT, our own ambition for Tobacco Harm Reduction is bold yet achievable. By 2030, we aspire to have 50 million consumers of our Non-Combustible products.

This number encapsulates not just a shift in consumer behaviour but a shift in societal norms, in public health paradigms, and in the narrative that has often surrounded our industry.

We have already set the wheels in motion. There are now 24 million consumers of our Non-Combustible products. But this is just the beginning, a precursor to the transformational journey that lies ahead.

And right across the world, there are examples of where Tobacco Harm Reduction is bringing real change.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recognition that the marketing of certain products is “appropriate for the protection of public health” has set in motion a sea change in behaviour.

For example, when we talk of “smokefree” targets, the generally accepted metric for this is cigarette prevalence below 5%. Based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey from the CDC in the U.S., for those aged 18-24, smokefree has now been achieved.i

This is a stunning achievement. With smoking rates among 18-24 year olds having dropped below 5% in the U.S., it also dispels the myth that vaping acts as a gateway to cigarettes. Were that true, you would expect smoking prevalence to be increasing in 18- to 24-year-olds. Yet this is not the case.

In the UK, we are seeing similarly dramatic change. Over 9% of adults now vape – nearly five million people. Of this, around three million are ex-smokers and around two million are current smokers, or dual users.ii

This follows the UK Government announcing a national ‘swap to stop’ campaign, explicitly recognising that vaping, combined with behavioural support, is almost twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy.

As the London Tobacco Alliance, a broad coalition of public health experts and local authorities, puts it:

“…nicotine vapes play a significant role in reducing tobacco harm for adult smokers and supporting them to quit, improving public health.”iii

And last year, the European Parliament highlighted in a landmark report that:
“electronic cigarettes could allow some smokers to progressively quit smoking.”iv

This is an encouraging signal in light of the upcoming revision of the European Tobacco Products Directive.

So, what is stopping even more progress being made? Knowledge and education, or the lack of it, clearly plays a role.

Despite most of the harm from smoking being caused by products of combustion, not nicotine, it is estimated that 80% of doctors globally believe nicotine causes lung cancerv. In the UK alone, nearly 40% of smokers believe vaping is equivalent to or riskier than smokingvi

It’s clear that the industry, as well as policymakers and those working in public health, must do much more to educate people about the science that underpins Tobacco Harm Reduction.

But it goes beyond that, we must also ensure that the media does not demonise products like e-cigarettes. Smarter regulation, with strong enforcement of the rules, is surely the best route to achieving this.

A smarter regulation framework for single-use vapes

As I mentioned earlier, I want to offer some areas where smarter regulation could be applied to the vapour category to build a more progressive environment for Tobacco Harm Reduction.

Applied to the entire market and combined with greater enforcement, there are five areas where more must be done in terms of regulation. These are the areas that regulators should explore and establish smart regulation that is right for their market:

  1. First, on-device technology and functionality. Vapour products should be accessible only to adults. Both underage prevention and restriction is crucial. On-device technology, when applied and enforced across entire market, could help in this regard. And for the environment, appropriate ways to ensure safe and proper disposal of batteries would be a significant step forward.
  2. Second, more recognition is needed that flavours are an important driver of adoption for smokers seeking alternatives. However, flavours in vapour products should not particularly appeal to anyone underage. Ensuring the removal of those products that do could be a balanced approach to meeting consumer demand while reducing underage appeal.
  3. Third is at the manufacturing and import level. Ensuring that non-compliant products cannot reach the market in the first place is another area regulators should explore. This would be a highly effective and efficient way to ensure that illicit and non-compliant products do not reach consumers.
  4. Fourth is the area of retail restrictions. Where no restrictions exist already, regulators may want to look at where and who should be able to sell vapour products. Reasonable safeguards at the point-of-sale would help ensure these products are sold only to adult consumers. Solutions such as retail licensing and facial recognition technologies should be seriously considered.
  5. Last is the all-important issue of enforcement and penalties. Governments must wield their enforcement powers to build the credibility of Tobacco Harm Reduction and ensure consumers are purchasing legitimate products. Such measures should be rigorously enforced and those who fail to comply should face meaningful sanctions. If I had one wish it would be that enforcement is mentioned as much as regulation. Regulation is nothing without enforcement.

At BAT, we stand ready to work with regulators to ensure the market for vapour, and the other categories that contribute to Tobacco Harm Reduction, is built on responsibility and sustainability.


In conclusion, let there be no doubt about what BAT stands for – a future where reduced-risk*† alternatives to smoking are embraced. A future where innovation thrives, and where millions of consumers are free to choose from a range of alternatives.

We call upon governments, regulators, and industry peers to rally towards a sustainable and progressive environment in which these products are sold and marketed responsibly.

The time for boldness is now. The opportunity for change is here. It’s not about relaxing regulations; it’s about recalibrating them to align with the evidence and the aspirations of millions seeking a better alternative to smoking.

We have an opportunity to redefine the future of public health, and it begins with smarter regulation that reflects the realities of smoking alternatives and provides smokers the freedom to choose less risky*† products.

Thank you.

  1. (2022). NHIS - 2022 NHIS. [online] Available at: .
  2. ASH (2022). Use of e-cigarettes among adults in Great Britain. [online] ASH. Available at: .
  3. London Tobacco Alliance (LTA). (2023). London launches vaping position for adult smoking cessation. [online] Available at: .
  4. (n.d.). Texts adopted - Strengthening Europe in the fight against cancer - Wednesday, 16 February 2022. [online] Available at: .
  5. World, F. for a S.-F. (n.d.). Nearly 80% of Doctors Worldwide Mistakenly Believe Nicotine Causes Lung Cancer, Thwarting Efforts to Help One Billion Smokers Quit. [online] Available at: .
  6. ASH (2022). Use of e-cigarettes among adults in Great Britain. [online] ASH. Available at: .

* Based on the weight of evidence and assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products are not risk free and are addictive.

† Our Vapour product Vuse (including Alto, Solo, Ciro and Vibe), and certain products, including Velo, Grizzly, Kodiak, and Camel Snus, which are sold in the U.S., are subject to FDA regulation and no reduced-risk claims will be made as to these products without agency clearance.