Tobacco Harm Reduction as Public Policy
In 2008, the American Association of Public Health Physicians noted that the addition of tobacco harm reduction to current policies "…could yield a 50% to 80% reduction in tobacco-related illness and death over the first ten years, and a likely reduction of up to 90% within 20 years."
Unfortunately, government health agencies and many tobacco control organizations have not endorsed tobacco harm reduction as a viable addition to existing abstinence policies, leaving the status quo in place.
It is a Guiding Principle for RAI and its operating companies that governments, public health officials, tobacco manufacturers and others share a responsibility to provide adult tobacco consumers with accurate information about the various health risks and comparative risks associated with the use of different tobacco and nicotine products.
RAI's operating companies are committed to engaging with the Food and Drug Administration on the issue of tobacco harm reduction and education. Discussion about the shaping of appropriate tobacco harm reduction policies can also extend to legislative arenas.
Legislative opportunities to improve public health and reduce state health-care costs may present themselves as revenue bills. For example, policy makers could consider modifying the tax structure on tobacco products based on their comparative risk. Another possibility is exploring whether states could "tier" health insurance rates for state employees who use tobacco based on comparative risk of the form of tobacco used, potentially reducing state employees' health care costs. At a minimum, legislators should explore the enormous potential that tobacco harm reduction could have for society.
RAI and its operating companies are committed to significantly reducing the harm caused by smoking. By embracing tobacco harm reduction principles, manufacturers and policy makers, working together, could herald a new era that fundamentally changes the impact of tobacco use on society. Today, public policy leaders and companies like RAI have a unique opportunity to lead that change.