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September 27, 2020

Tobacco industry not doing enough for transition to reduced-risk alternatives

Islamabad

September 27, 2020

Islamabad : The tobacco industry is not phasing out cigarettes or transitioning smokers to reduced-risk alternatives quickly enough, states the first-ever Tobacco Transformation Index launched by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW).

As a tool designed to accelerate the reduction of harm caused by tobacco use, the index is a comprehensive evaluation of the 15 largest tobacco companies and their respective sales, investments, and strategies related to the transition away from combustible cigarettes and other high-risk tobacco products.

Harm reduction progress is extremely limited. The 15 companies assessed by the index achieved only a marginal decline in cigarette sales, from 4.9 trillion to 4.8 trillion sticks (-1.2% compound annual growth rate) globally during 2017-2019. At this rate, it will take decades to eliminate smoking, meaning many more smokers will die and society will continue to bear the dire health and economic consequences of high-risk tobacco consumption.

According to the findings, only 6 out of 15 tobacco companies have made public commitments to harm reduction and to tackling the challenges of tobacco-related death and disease, but none has shifted their focus to ensure the accelerated decline of cigarettes and other high-risk products. Furthermore, 9 out of 15 have not made any commitment to harm reduction and continue to set targets to increase sales of high-risk tobacco products.

One of the key findings is that tobacco companies are focusing most of their reduced-risk product efforts on high-medium income countries, where overall smoking rates are lower and cigarette sales are already declining; critically, high-risk product sales continue to grow in lower-income countries.

The index advocates for better disclosure and transparency. “Companies should disclose as much detail as possible concerning their policies, strategies, and performance, as well as their stances on and responses to public policy and other external factors influencing the trajectory of tobacco harm reduction,” it states. Ironically, only 6 of 15 companies covered scoring points for transparency indicators.

The President of FSFW Derek Yach said, through the index, the behavior of tobacco companies is being critically evaluated, including actions that either support or impede tobacco harm reduction. “In doing so, the Index provides objective information to all stakeholders and incentivizes companies to act more quickly and responsibly,” he added.