Harm reduction is the application of additional measures to reduce the risk of harm of an inherently dangerous activity.
In fact, we all take preventative measures to reduce harm every day, whether putting on a seatbelt while driving a car, wearing a helmet when riding a bike or even applying sunscreen when lying on the beach.
So, how does harm reduction apply to smoking?
Many adult cigarette smokers continue to smoke - even though they know their risk increases of getting a disease due to the effects of smoking. Their best option is to quit smoking (and there are many public health campaigns and measures worldwide supporting and encouraging this).
Some smokers manage to end their cigarette addiction long term by sheer will power alone or through nicotine replacement therapies.
Can cigarette alternatives help?
Some people who don’t want to quit but know that continued smoking is harmful to their health, have tried using e-cigarettes. There’s been a lot of media coverage indicating that e-cigarettes may be a less risky alternative to smoking cigarettes.
The challenge is that research indicates that many current smokers using e-cigarettes find the experience isn’t similar enough to smoking.
What about tobacco alternatives?
At PMI, we know that smokers who don’t want to quit altogether consider products with less risk of developing smoking-related diseases. Our scientists have spent years working on new technologies and how to apply additional measures to develop reduced risk products. But … we also know that innovative technology alone isn’t sufficient to help cigarette smokers switch or quit.
After all, what’s the point of developing an innovative product that no-one wants to use?
This is where the harm reduction equation comes in.
Harm reduction in the population = product risk X acceptability to current adult smokers
The acceptability of a cigarette by current adult smokers is high. The risk is high. Therefore, the harm to the population is high.
If a product has a lower risk profile but isn’t acceptable to smokers, harm to the population won’t decrease.
But if smokers can find a product that is acceptable and it significantly reduces risk compared to smoking cigarettes, the harm to the population will decrease.
How can IQOS help with harm reduction?
IQOS is a heated tobacco product. The HeatControl Technology inside heats tobacco just enough to release a flavourful nicotine-containing tobacco vapour but without burning the tobacco.
Because IQOS works on the basis of heat not burn tobacco, we believe adult smokers do find it acceptable - and that it allows them to switch more readily. In fact, 7.3 million adult smokers have already stopped smoking and switched to IQOS as an alternative to smoking.
And the more who switch, the less the harm to the population than the risk caused by smoking cigarettes.