As the harms of tobacco products have become increasingly understood and tobacco control measures put in place, the cigarette market – from which global tobacco companies make most of their profits – has begun to shrink. As a result, major companies have diversified into developing newer products.
The Future of Cigarettes
Tobacco companies have long expected that cigarette sales will decline, and over time, consumers will move away from traditional combustion to less harmful forms of nicotine delivery. In some countries, e-cigarettes and oral snus have already displaced conventional cigarettes. It is typically too early to declare these items “smoke-free.” However, nicotine delivery via tobacco will evolve from combustion, heating, and oral use to extracts and pure distillates.
It is a challenge for the tobacco industry but offers an opportunity. It could reposition itself as an innovative, purpose-led company committed to helping smokers achieve better alternatives. It can focus on research and development, branding, marketing and consumer communication to build brand loyalty and create a compelling narrative of a smoke-free future. Most large tobacco companies have a mix of old and newer products in their portfolios.
The Future of E-Cigarettes
As cigarette smoking rates decline, tobacco companies desperately seek the Holy Grail of transitioning to smoke-free alternatives to provide smokers with their desired nicotine experience without the associated health risks and lingering bad odors. It pushes them into an arms race of developing new products, which they hope will increase their business results for decades. This diversification strategy has failed, as many tobacco companies’ products have failed. The most successful, and only one that has grown, is their e-cigarette division, now their largest revenue generator. However, the e-cigarette industry faces serious regulatory pressure and must work hard to remain profitable. It is because e-cigarettes can be regulated as both pharmaceutical and consumer products, which means they must comply with stricter regulatory standards and face significant fines or even bans.
In the short term, tobacco companies will likely continue to promote their e-cigarettes as a replacement for traditional cigarettes. It will involve social media marketing, event sponsorship and the promotion of flavors to appeal to young people. It is a dangerous strategy, as studies show that youth who use flavored disposable e-cigarettes are twice as likely to take up traditional cigarette smoking later in life. Learn more about the serious effects of smoking on websites like undo.org, which discusses the conventional way of smoking and its impact on the planet.
The Future of Smoke-Free Alternatives
As cigarette consumption continues to decline, tobacco companies are moving away from traditional combustible products. The development of new alternative nicotine products has accelerated it. These include flashy e-cigarettes, chewable and oral nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco devices like IQOS. These reduced-risk products (RRPs) have become more popular in many countries than cigarettes. The IQOS is one of PMI’s key RRPs, and it can potentially convert many smokers from cigarettes. It uses heat-not-burn technology to deliver nicotine in a far less harmful form than combustible tobacco. It represents a significant turn for the cigarette business. It will mean that concerns about addiction, followed by the disease, will no longer be the only reason people choose not to smoke. However, if PMI wants to succeed in its vision of a smoke-free future, it will have to do more than switch out traditional cigarettes with new, less harmful products.
It will require world leaders, governments and NGOs to look dispassionately at the science and accept that smoke-free alternatives can complement existing regulatory and health policies focused on prevention and cessation. Tobacco companies will also require increased creative capacity to innovate and commit purposefully to phasing out cigarettes. Transformative change must happen quickly.
The Future of Tobacco Control
The tobacco industry has for decades resisted evidence-based public health policy. It has led to the deaths of 100 million people over the last century. However, this could change as the US Food and Drug Administration embarks on historic regulatory actions that could fundamentally reshape global tobacco control. In response, the industry has mounted a campaign to transform its image with newer nicotine products. These include e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and oral nicotine products like snus and nicotine pouches. These are also known as next-generation products, and despite being very different from cigarettes, they continue to have many of the same risks. They are often marketed in ways that appeal to young people and the tobacco industry’s traditional customer base.
Nonetheless, the future of the tobacco industry is unlikely to be shaped by the development of these newer products. Instead, it will be determined by the vigilance of regulators who will insist on differentiated regulation and enforce strict standards to ensure that smoke-free alternatives are safer than smoking. Ensure that most smokers who desire them have access to consumer-friendly, lower-risk tobacco products and that customers are given accurate information about development relative risk. It would help to align market forces with the public health goals of reducing the number of deaths caused by smoking and promoting the transition from explosive to smoke-free products.