September 30, 2013

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Big tobacco promoted snus in Europe to keep people smoking (not for harm reduction): Lessons for ecig policy

Silvy Peeters and Anna Gilmore just published another fine paper, "Transnational Tobacco Company Interests in Smokeless Tobacco in Europe: Analysis of Internal Industry Documents and Contemporary Industry Materials," in PLoS Medicine.  The analysis shows that, in contrast to the optimistic views of some harm enthusiasts (particularly in Europe), the tobacco companies are not trying to promote smokeless tobacco as a "harm reduction" strategy, but rather to protect cigarette sales for as long as possible.

The last paragraph (which I have broken into pieces for easier reading) of the paper sums things up:

... legalising snus sales in Europe may have considerably less benefit than envisaged and could have a number of harmful consequences. Perhaps of greater concern, however, .. are the recent industry  investments in pure nicotine products. These raise two concerns.

First, one of competition: should such investments continue, competition between cigarettes and clean nicotine products would decrease, limiting the potential for harm reduction to benefit public health and maintaining the status quo of cigarettes. While a nicotine regulatory authority could ensure that regulation was proportional to harm, it would be powerless to address the issue of competition, so this situation needs close observation.

Second, they may enable TTCs, by presenting themselves as purveyors of nicotine rather than tobacco products, to undermine Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which aims to protect public health policy from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

Finally, if TTCs are genuinely interested in seeing their cigarette consumers switch to snus (or pure nicotine products), rather than creating new snus/nicotine users and/or dual use opportunities, we would expect to see detailed strategic plans and cigarette sales reduction targets at least for the markets where they intend to introduce these products. However, to this date we have yet to see this.

All these issues apply in spades to e-cigarettes.

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