Alternative Smoking Technologies Are Driving ‘Sustained Double-Digit’ Declines In Cigarette Sales

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Alternative tobacco technologies that drastically cut harms from smoking are continuing to fuel a historic decline in cigarette sales in Japan.

A press release Friday from Japan Tobacco (JT) reveals heat-not-burn products such as Philip Morris International’s (PMI) IQOS and British American Tobacco’s (BAT) glo are maintaining their popularity in overseas markets. Domestic cigarette sales for JT dropped by 13.2 percent in April, mimicking the monthly pattern of decline the company experienced in 2017 following the introduction of the IQOS in 2016.

Preliminary data from JT shows overall cigarette sales in Japan from all tobacco companies in April fell by 13.75 percent compared to April 2017. Despite the unprecedented dip in cigarette sales, U.S. health groups remain skeptical of alternative technologies, while the largely anti-vaping media simply ignores the overseas public health gains. (RELATED: Hysteria Over Vaping Goes To New Levels As Media Calls Juuling The New Youth ‘Epidemic’)

“We have known for decades that a great many people who smoke cigarettes wish to reduce their risks,” David Sweanor of the Center for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Various forms of smokeless tobacco, including Swedish snus and U.S. moist snuff allowed that to happen, but were stymied by bans and misleading warnings. We now have electronic options such as vaping and ‘heat-not-burn’ products like IQOS and glo. These have lead to sustained double-digit rates of decline in cigarette sales in Japan and South Korea. Yet the same ideologies that protected cigarettes from smokeless tobacco now threaten these electronic alternatives.”

Early research shows heat-not-burn products drastically cut the risk for tobacco related cancers and diseases by heating tobacco leaves instead of burning them.

Unlike a traditional e-cigarette, which vaporizes nicotine fluid, the IQOS heats tobacco leaves. Users insert sticks resembling short cigarettes into the device, which heats a concentrated dose of tobacco, eliminating the harmful combustion process of cigarettes.

A proliferation of misinformation on the risks of alternative technologies, however, is leaving millions of users in the dark about their options. (RELATED: ‘Deception’ Over The Risks Of Smoking Alternatives Violates ‘Public Health Ethics’)

A critique by public health experts published in 2017 in the journal Addictive Behaviors argues that federal health officials are violating consumer rights and the principles of informed consent by deliberately misrepresenting the risk profiles of alternatives to combustible tobacco.

Sweanor and co-author Lynn Kozlowski of the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Buffalo, say this “quarantining” of information has “no ethical basis” and runs afoul of good public health practices.

Public health experts focused on harm reduction say the unprecedented success of heat-not-burn products in Japanese and European markets show the promising impact the technology could have on reducing global smoking rates.

The company estimates roughly four million former smokers in 30 different markets across the world are actively using the product.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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