January 11, 2019

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Outstanding analysis of how new tobacco products fit into transnational tobacco company plans

Annaliese Mathers, Ben Hawkins, and Kelley Lee just published the best overall assessment of how new tobacco products, most notably e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, fit into the transnational tobacco companies’ business and political plans.  Their paper, “Transnational Tobacco Companies and New Nicotine Delivery Systems” published in American Journal of Public Health, includes a comprehensive global analysis of all the major brands and products and how they relate to the transnational tobacco companies in two informative tables.

The meticulously describe how the TTC’s have taken over the market through acquisitions and new product development.  They also position these changes within the further consolidation of the tobacco industry into a few giant companies.  While e-cigarette and industry advocates argue that government regulation is crushing innovation and new company entry into the market to compete with the conventional TTCs, Mathers et al make the interesting point that aggressive patent litigation is the main thing blocking competition with the TTCs.  They also clearly describe how the companies are using these new products to support and protect their core cigarette business, despite claims to the contrary.  While the Philip Morris investment in Juul was still pending at the time the paper was finished, that investment fits right in with the larger themes of the global patterns documented in this paper, including trying to use the non-cigarette products to whitewash the companies’ images.

They also highlight the importance of the FCTC to include these new products, a point that Lauren Lempert and I made in the context of HTP a couple months ago.  Fortunately, at the COP8 the Conference of the Parties did just that, including new steps to strengthen implementation of FCTC Article 5.3  (another thing Mathers et al stressed).

Two other of our earlier papers, one on how the US e-cigarette advocacy environment changed after the major cigarette companies got into the business and another on how heated tobacco products fit into the TTC’s global political agenda, are nice complements to the Mathers et al paper.

Here is the abstract:

While the public health community has focused on the harm-reduction potential of new nicotine delivery systems (NNDSs) and, conversely, their potential for impeding overall efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use, limited analysis has been conducted on the role of leading transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) in this rapidly growing market. Following aborted efforts during the 1980s and 1990s to develop reduced-risk products, TTCs have heavily invested in selected NNDS products since 2010 via acquisitions and internal research and development. This article catalogs and analyzes the patterns of investment in NNDSs by leading TTCs over time, and identifies differences in the companies' approaches to NNDS product acquisition and development in specific markets globally. This analysis raises important questions regarding the companies' intent, which appears to be to sustain, rather than replace, cigarette sales, and to increase their influence and credibility with respect to NNDS policy and regulation. We identify the need for greater public health vigilance and research to understand and respond to the increasingly significant role of NNDSs in TTCs' global business strategies, to ensure that NNDSs advance, rather than hinder, tobacco control efforts.

The full citation is: Mathers A, Hawkins B, Lee K. Transnational Tobacco Companies and New Nicotine Delivery Systems.  Am J Public Health. 2018 Dec 20:e1-e9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304813. [Epub ahead of print].  It is available here.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.