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Sustainability Homepage - Tobacco Harm Reduction
Reducing the harm caused
by smoking

Management Approach

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 consider switching to these tobacco products.

In response to the Surgeon General’s report in 1964, 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 15.1 percent (1965–2015). However, despite near-universal awareness of the health risks associated with cigarettes, the CDC reports that 37 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. This goal is embedded throughout RAI and its subsidiaries to ensure activities are aligned and deliver on our Transforming Tobacco vision. In 2016, RAI Innovations Company, a new RAI subsidiary, was created to help lead the innovation of and discussions about next-generation vapor products. With RAI Innovations, we intend to provide the existing 37 million adult smokers in the U.S. with next generation products (NGP) that will meet the evolving preferences of adult tobacco consumers.
“Product innovation has long been a hallmark of RAI’s operating companies. By centralizing new-product development, RAI Innovations is able to bring new technology to market with next generation products to meet the preferences of adult tobacco consumers in a rapidly evolving marketplace.”
Carolyn Hanigan, president, RAI Innovations

Programs and Priorities

Reynolds American and its operating companies continue to transform the tobacco industry by:
  • Conducting research and evaluating the growing body of scientific evidence to better understand the relative risks of different tobacco products;
  • Engaging with legislators, regulators and other stakeholders with a goal of having the elements of tobacco harm reduction reflected in future legislation and regulation; and
  • Creating new and innovative products to meet the changing expectations of adult tobacco consumers.

sound science

legislative and regulatory priorities

product innovation