Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) is about reducing the risks faced by adult tobacco smokers by providing them with accurate information about, and instituting regulatory policies that reflect, the comparative risks between cigarettes and non-combustible tobacco products and nicotine replacement therapies — thereby encouraging smokers who do not quit tobacco entirely to switch to these tobacco products.
In response to the Surgeon General’s report in 1963, governments, at all levels, deployed a range of strategies to encourage smokers to quit and to discourage smoking initiation. Smoking rates have reached historic lows. Specifically, adult smoking has declined significantly from 42.4 percent at its peak to 16.8 percent (1965–2014). However, despite near-universal awareness of the health risks associated with cigarettes, some 40 million American adults continue to smoke.
Recently, some members of the public health community have advocated that tobacco harm reduction be included as part of a more comprehensive strategy for reducing the health risks associated with cigarette smoking. Harm reduction encourages public health initiatives that have the potential to decrease the harm associated with a particular behavior without necessarily eliminating that behavior. That is not to say that the alternative behavior does not pose some risk, but that the alternative behavior poses less risk. Common harm-reduction efforts that minimize the impact risky behaviors have on society include laws concerning road safety (e.g. seatbelt, helmet and cell phone/texting laws), and needle exchanges for intravenous drug users.
Given the success of harm reduction strategies with other risky behaviors, a growing number of scientists and public health officials are embracing tobacco harm reduction as an additional tool to reduce the harm associated with cigarette use. Many believe that migrating smokers from cigarettes to non-combustible tobacco products and nicotine replacement therapies presents a public health opportunity.
Research indicates that the combustion of tobacco (i.e., cigarette smoking), rather than nicotine, is what exposes tobacco consumers to the most risk. Indeed, there is a scientific consensus that smokeless tobacco products present less risk than cigarettes. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that other non-combustible tobacco products such as vapor products may present less risk than cigarette smoking as well. Encouraging smokers to switch to products that reduce the risk or have the potential to reduce risk from smoking cigarettes can play a valuable role in public health.
Goals and Leadership
Our goal for Tobacco Harm Reduction is to drive product and thought innovation that embraces science-based evidence of the comparative health risks associated with tobacco use. A cross-functional team is charged with integrating the Tobacco Harm Reductions strategies across RAI and its operating companies helping ensure activities are aligned and deliver on our Transforming Tobacco vision.
“We are the right company at the right time to accomplish this goal. What a great feeling to be successful in your business goals and to do the right thing. The future is truly exciting.”
Brice O’Brien, executive vice president of public affairs and chief communications officer for Reynolds American Inc.
Programs and Priorities
Reynolds American and its operating companies continue to transform the tobacco industry by reducing the harm associated with tobacco use through a variety of mechanisms. They are as follows:
- Our operating companies have long been known as leaders in product innovation, providing adult tobacco consumers with a range of tobacco and nicotine-based products to adapt to changing societal expectations.
- Product Integrity — We begin with the principle that nothing is to be done or added to products that increases their inherent risks.
- Our companies remain committed to complying with all laws and regulations, and upholding our strict marketing safeguards.
- We engage with legislators and regulators with a goal of having the elements of tobacco harm reduction our reflected in future legislation and regulation.