Embrace innovation to end smoking faster, says Philip Morris South Africa

Here's what we can we learn from other countries when addressing the harm of smoking.

Innovations from sunscreen to seat belts to reduce the harm caused by certain behaviours and activities are woven into our everyday lives.

Leveraging the latest innovations and technological breakthroughs combined with regulation is crucial to safeguarding all citizens.

“The harm caused by smoking is well known and a similar approach, combining sensible regulation that incorporates harm reduction strategies, should be applied to reduce these risks,” says Branislav Bibic, Managing Director at Philip Morris South Africa.

“Better alternatives, driven by the latest technologies, need to be accessible and affordable to all adult smokers, otherwise, it will remain a harsh reality that millions of adults who would otherwise continue smoking, continue to use cigarettes instead of accessing better, science-backed alternatives.”

The best choice

There’s no doubt, he adds, that the best choice is to quit tobacco and nicotine use completely. But we know that many adult smokers don’t quit, and they deserve access to better alternatives to continued smoking. “These innovations exist and are driving real change.”

ALSO READ: Outdated tobacco law threatens progress towards smoke-free South Africa, says Philip Morris

He explains that conventional regulation usually falls short of eradicating harmful behavior completely. “Environmental threats like climate change, as well as social and public health threats like non-communicable diseases (NCDs), are some of the main challenges of the twenty-first century.

Learn from Norway

One way to address these threats is to eliminate or minimize detrimental effects to the environment or public health by regulating harmful behavior.”

“To reduce harm to the environment or public health, regulators can markedly accelerate both the industry’s transformation towards less harmful alternatives and the speed at which consumers switch to them by implementing selected and targeted differentiated policies for harmful and less harmful consumption,” Bibic adds.

“Such a differentiated policy approach requires innovation-based solutions and oftentimes significant changes in business models as industries must develop alternatives for products or services with significant externalities.”

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He notes that a policy approach that combines differentiated regulation with safeguards enables policy makers to offer consumers less harmful options to known risks while hedging against unknown risks.

“One of the examples of differentiated regulation to stimulate, mandate, or otherwise address changes in consumer behavior is Norway’s global leadership role in the promotion of electric vehicles (EVs),” he explains “This is the result of early and comprehensive policy interventions targeting both the monetary aspect of vehicle purchases as well as aspects related to the ease of use of low and zero-emission vehicles.”

Managing Director at Philip Morris South Africa, Branislav Bibic. Picture: Supplied

“Norway aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 40 percent by 2030 compared to the levels of 1990 and defines the transport sector and environmentally friendly shipping as priority areas for increased intervention,” he says.

“The Norwegian government has invested heavily in the EV charging infrastructure, supported the development of mobile apps which provide consumers with real-time information on the availability and location of charging stations, while further increasing the acceptance by granting EVs access to bus lanes.”

ALSO READ: Tobacco companies hoping new bill won’t deter users from adoption of ‘less harmful’ options

… Or the Netherlands

Another example he cites is the Netherlands’ innovative approach in addressing the danger of selling alcohol to minors.

“While age verification in a supermarket or a liquor store is a very successful tool to significantly decrease the availability of alcohol to minors, the increasing proportion of online purchases for everyday necessities like food and drinks presents a new challenge,” he adds.

“The Netherlands have addressed this problem through new legislation that requires online retailers selling alcohol to have a specific process in place to ensure that alcoholic beverages ordered online or by telephone are always delivered to an adult.”

“This new regulation has created a framework that respects the preferences of consumers to shop online, while providing a workable safeguard against the sale of minors,” Bibic says.

“Discouraging adults from starting to smoke and encouraging those who do smoke to quit altogether must continue, however supplementing these measures with a tobacco harm reduction approach can accelerate a decline in smoking for those adults who would otherwise continue.”

“If innovative alternatives to smoking are made available with accurate information, and enough adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking switch to them, we can more rapidly achieve a significant milestone in global health—a world without cigarettes,” he concludes.

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