Heated tobacco disrupts cigarette industry – group
TOKYO: A new study shows that the entry of heated tobacco products (HTPs) triggered the remarkable reduction in combustible cigarettes sales in Japan. “The decline in smoking rates among adults in Japan is astoundingly impressive when you realize that this has only come about rapidly with the introduction of HTPs,” said Nancy Loucas, executive director of the Coalition of Asia-Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates.
Canadian and American researchers looked at how trends in the sale of cigarettes in Japan between 2011 and 2019 correspond to the sales of HTPs that were introduced into the Japanese market in late 2015.
Using data from the Tobacco Institute of Japan and Philip Morris International (PMI), the researchers concluded that the accelerated five-fold decline in cigarette only sales in Japan since 2016 corresponds to the introduction and growth in the sales of HTPs. Cigarette sales in Japan were declining slowly and steadily before HTPs were introduced in 2015.
Titled “What Is Accounting for the Rapid Decline in Cigarette Sales in Japan?” the study was published on May 20, 2020 in the peer-reviewed open access scientific journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
The publication of the new study is timely as it comes on the heels of the celebration of World Vape Day on May 30, 2020. Observed a day before World No Tobacco Day, World Vaping Day aims to raise awareness on e-cigarettes or vapes and encourage smokers who are unable to quit on their own or with currently available smoking cessation tools to switch to safer nicotine products.
HTPs are smoke-free devices that heat, instead of burn, specially designed tobacco units to release a flavorful nicotine-containing tobacco vapor.
As tobacco is not burned, the levels of harmful chemicals produced by HNB products are significantly lower compared to combustible cigarette smoke. The most popular HTP brand is IQOS, a product of PMI.
Consumers’ interest and the regulatory environment shape markets, according to Professor David Sweanor of the Faculty of Law of University of Ottawa, one of the study’s authors.
He explained that Japanese regulations precluded alternatives to combustible cigarettes, such as nicotine-containing vaping products. HTPs, however, generated huge interest among smokers in Japan.
Sweanor believes Japan is a success story in tobacco harm reduction. “We have seen the most rapid decline in cigarette sales ever witnessed in a major market,” the professor said.
Governments in the Asia-Pacific region that seek to ban or limit the access of smokers to HTPs and other safer nicotine alternatives should look to Sweden which for decades has promoted the shift to low-risk non-combustible alternatives to cigarettes, said Sweanor.
Commenting on the future of smokers in Asia-Pacific where HTPs will soon be available, the professor stressed that policies should empower people to take control of their health.
“Ensuring that a range of low-risk alternatives are not only on the market but have regulatory and tax advantages over cigarettes has the potential to transform public health. We have long known that people smoke for nicotine but die from the smoke,” Sweanor added.