Embrace science to save lives: PMI’s CEO outlines bold vision for Tobacco Harm Reduction

Embrace science to save lives: PMI’s CEO outlines bold vision for Tobacco Harm Reduction

Bengaluru 10th March 2023: In a special address at the recently held ET Global Business Summit 2023, Jacek Olczak, CEO, Philip Morris International (PMI) emphasised the need for leveraging science and technology for a better, more sustainable future for all. Held on February 17-18 in New Delhi, the summit was graced by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi. The summit witnessed participation of global CEOs, heads of states, thought leaders, policy makers, academicians, and corporate heads. The discourse focussed upon India being poised to become a superpower as the next 25 years ‘Amrit Kaal’ of its independence will witness India regaining its glory.

Speaking on the theme ‘Sustainable economy for the greater good’ Mr. Olczak emphasised the influence of India on the world in creating an impact on the collective future as ‘One Family’. He stressed on how innovation has grown at an increasingly rapid rate globally over the past few decades with research investments having been made across a wide range of industries (like energy & automotive), leading to the development of a modern and sustainable future for all. “Science and technology integrated with a collaboration between private and public has proven to be key to identify solutions to overcome difficult challenges. And, ultimately, when adopted improve lives for all of us”, he said.

Mr. Olczak touched upon PMI’s commitment to realizing a smoke-free future, and investment in science, technology & commercialization of over USD 10 billion investment to introduce better alternatives. “We are also sparing no efforts in designing policies to accelerate the adoption of better solutions, both amongst consumers and the industry level”, said Mr. Olczak.

“Let me focus on our products. Everyone knows that smoking causes disease. And clearly the best thing smokers can do is to quit. What many people do not know is the primary cause of those diseases. The problem starts with combustion and that triggers the release of high levels of harmful chemicals in the smoke’ he elaborated. Thanks to advances in science and technology, it is now possible to eliminate combustion and replace it with controlled heating, at much lower temperatures. At these lower temperatures, these products generate significantly lower levels of harmful compounds. And by significantly lower levels, I mean as much as 95 percent lower”, he added. He also spoke about the clinical and non-clinical studies that have been conducted on PMI’s heated tobacco products and over 450 peer-reviewed publications & book chapters published on them since 2008.”

Drawing parallels with different industry sectors, Mr. Olczak spoke about the need to address a challenge at its source, thus eliminating harm-causing sources, while also working to identify safer alternatives. The same harm reduction principle that is being applied to replace cooking over wood-fueled stoves with gas-fueled cooking systems, or replacing combustion-engine vehicles with better ones, applies to tobacco also.

Taking the example of Japan, he elaborated on how the introduction of heated tobacco products in the country has led to decline in cigarette sales at an annual rate of 1.8% on average in the past few years. With the expansion of availability of heated tobacco products, almost 35 percent of cigarettes have been replaced by heated tobacco products over the last 7 years. Recent analysis from Japan has also shown a downward trend in hospitalizations for COPD. Additionally, research funded by the country’s Ministry of Health and Welfare shows there is negligible adoption of these products by minors. “Similar dynamics are being observed in several European countries”, added Mr. Olczak.

Expressing his views on oral tobacco usage in India, Mr. Olczak spoke about how the estimated 200 million users of oral tobacco in India could be offered modern, safer, oral tobacco products. These products that have benefited from scientific and technological advances exist today and can have a significant impact to public health, as has happened in Scandinavia.

He further informed that PMI’s biggest contribution to society lies in addressing the fundamental issue of cigarette health effects. Throughout the company’s history, it has been a leading player in the cigarette market. Now, the company is, very intentionally, leaving that behind, embarking on a transformation to provide adults who would otherwise continue to smoke.

“All that’s needed is for today’s innovative, science-based products to be matched by equally innovative policies that encourage people that smoke to switch to less harmful alternatives. This is where India can help drive positive change for the rest of the world. And as chair of the G20, it can be a prime example for emerging economies”, he opined.

“Innovation in the tobacco industry is finally a reality. The question we must ask ourselves is this: How do we ensure that innovations are used in the service of people? In other words, how do we leverage technology, science, and innovation to accelerate public health progress and get millions of Indian smokers away from cigarettes? Given India’s history in leveraging innovative solutions to solve issues of society, I am confident that India will be a global leader in progressive tobacco policies going forward”, he concluded.

ET Global Business Summit:

Conceived in 2015, and now in its 7th edition, Global Business Summit 2023 seeks to provide solutions to key macroeconomic challenges being faced in the current milieu by curating government-to-government interactions, business to government meetings, business-to-business engagements and to serve as a conduit for corporates and governments to secure investments from domestic and international allies that will become a part of India’s growth story.