More than 7 million people die each year both from smoking and using other tobacco products. That makes using tobacco products the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide. This century, a billion people will die prematurely from tobacco, if the status quo is maintained.
We have a real opportunity and obligation to do more to reduce the long-term risks of using tobacco, and to support smokers on the road to cessation. The requirements for transforming the tobacco ecosystem are already in place: disruptive technologies, consumer demand, investor interest, and a few government leaders’ voices.
Disruptive technologies are available to end combustion and substantially reduce the risks associated with combustible cigarettes, by decoupling nicotine from the lethal smoke. Digital developments allow users to monitor their exposure to risks and track their habits. And innovative consumer products empower cessation and reduce exposure to harm. Most smokers, in nearly all countries, want to quit or reduce their risks from smoking. Increasingly, they are demanding that their needs are considered. They are asking for more research to be conducted into alternatives to tobacco, and for governments to implement policies to help them. Investors and the tobacco industry are reacting after seeing mature cigarette markets shrink by one-quarter in just two years. The list of advances goes on.
However, misconceptions abound: smokers incorrectly view nicotine as a cancer-causing substance, our survey found e-cigarettes are widely believed to be equally, or more harmful, than combustible cigarettes, etc. These misconceptions are emboldening some governments to ban harm-reduction products, and are slowing down innovation.
Now is the time to address the needs of smokers. In this 3-year Strategic Plan, we highlight how we will step up the transformation of the entire ecosystem, accelerate technological disruption, shed light upon the health-related misconceptions, help vulnerable smallholder farmers transition away from tobacco, and incentivize tobacco companies to evolve faster, more decisively and voluntarily.