The use of tobacco products poses real and serious risks to health. The only way to avoid these risks is not to consume tobacco at all. However, the concept of harm reduction is increasingly being considered in relation to tobacco use and it is a key element of our business strategy.
Harm reduction is about finding practical ways to minimise the health impact of an inherently risky activity or behaviour, without seeking to stop it entirely. An example of harm reduction in action that is familiar to most of us is the use of seat belts and airbags in cars.
Harm reduction and tobacco
Regulatory policies based on discouraging people from starting to smoke and encouraging them to quit have been and continue to be effective. While the proportion of adults who smoke is likely to continue declining, widely accepted estimates suggest that in 10 years’ time, as a result of global population growth, there will still be as many or more tobacco consumers globally as there are today.
In the context of tobacco and health, few governments currently support the development of reduced risk tobacco products. Most governments simply argue for prevention and cessation.
British American Tobacco thinks it’s important to work towards producing consumer-acceptable, potentially reduced risk products. We believe there could be further public health gains if tobacco regulatory policies included harm reduction, for the millions of adults globally who will continue to consume tobacco products.
Some regulators and tobacco control advocates actually reject the concept of reduced risk tobacco products altogether, suggesting that the approach is inappropriate, as such products may discourage smokers from quitting, or lead people to become tobacco consumers who would not otherwise have done so.
The Group continues to seek common ground on harm reduction with health policymakers, who are looking to achieve a reduction in the net public health impact of tobacco use.
Research and development
The science of tobacco harm reduction is complex, extremely challenging and spans many scientific disciplines. British American Tobacco has significantly expanded it's research capabilities over the past few years to reflect the continued importance of work in this area.
It also publishes a specialist tobacco science website – bat-science.com – written by scientists for scientists. The site is designed to provide an overview of British American Tobacco's current research and development programmes, research data and recently published papers and posters for any scientist with an interest in tobacco-related research or related disciplines.
You can read more about the Group's research, the scientific approach to harm reduction and the specialist science website in the Research and development section.