Moving away from traditional cigarettes to less harmful HTPs

By Najam ul Hassan

ISLAMABAD, Aug 8 (APP):Thousands of people die every year owing to smoking traditional combustible tobacco with many more suffering chronic diseases. Combustible cigarettes cause hazards to human health therefore they must be phased out to save the humanity from severe causes, one of the biggest tobacco company Phillip Morris International (PMI) has the stance with a vision of “delivering a smoke free future”.

In 2016, the iconic Marlboro maker had announced a major business transformation to move from the traditional cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products to smoke free alternative products with substantially low harm.

The company declared to get at least 40 million of its adult customers to quit smoking switching to the alternative non combustible heated tobacco products. VG Global Communications PMI, Tomasso DiGiovanni in its recent address to a group of journalist in Bhurban said since 2008, the PMI had spent over $8 billion in an effort to support its strategy of smoke free future.

Critics however are of the view that this was not possible to make the world smoke free completely as majority of smokers are not inclined to the quit the smoking altogether therefore they must be given alternatives to continue smoking but with very low health hazards.

Head of Communications at Philip Morris Pakistan Limited Andleeb Uroos Ahmed said it makes no sense to deny adult smokers access to scientifically substantiated less harmful alternatives to continue smoking.

Tomasso DiGiovanni said the PMI’s efforts are bearing fruits as in some countries such as Japan and UK, the number of smokers has started declining and the graph of people switching to the alternative tobacco products is moving up.

To a query about Pakistan’s future in this regard, DiGiovanni pointed out several reasons for being slow progress of moving away from the combustible tobacco products.

He said Pakistan was playing its good part in discouraging smoking in the country but it could do well by regulating and formally introducing alternate smoking products.

In recent years, Pakistan grabbed lot of achievements in its fight against tobacco harm including ban on selling cigarettes to minors, ban on Shisha in restaurants, ban on manufacturing or selling packets with less than 20 ceigarettes, ban on smoking in closed or public places, ban on free samples and increasing size of pictorial health warning on the cigarette packets.

However the PMI could not introduce its alternate tobacco products in Pakistan due to lack of related legislation.

In addition, the products being too expensive and conventional cigarettes being too cheaper in Pakistan is also another reason of low inclination by the people to switch to the products of Tobacco Harm Reduction.

Proper laws in this regard could help improving the health statistics of Pakistan. Muhammad Nadeem-45, a resident of Islamabad said he was willing to gradually quit the smoking by shifting first to the alternate tobacco products such as vapes, e-cigarettes or oral nicotine pouches but could not find the alternative heated tobacco products in the county.

Demonstrating the Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) in the alternative heated tobacco products (HTPs) such as heated tobacco devices, Manager Corporate Communication at Phillip Morris Pakistan, Hajra Khan told the group of journalists, the heated tobacco device was a heat-not-burn tobacco product which is designed not to produce secondhand smoke.

She demonstrated the effect of both combustible as well as non-combustible cigarettes through a machine that inhaled both cigarettes but unlike the traditional cigarette, the later with the device did not change color of the glass vessel.

She said the hazards and toxicity of the device was far less (about 95%) compared to that of conventional cigarette.

According to a study several harmful compounds (nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide (CO) and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs)) exist in the mainstream smoke.

Director Regional Scientific Engagement – PMI Asia, Tomoko Lida said Japan’s cigarette sales in 2020 fell below 100 billion for the first time in decades, as more smokers apparently opted to use heated tobacco products amid the spread of teleworking due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Tobacco Institute of Japan, in the year that ended in March, sales of rolled tobacco products plunged by a record 16.3 percent from the year before to 98.8 billion sticks, the lowest since the year 1990 when comparable data became available.