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Over 80% of SA Smokers Would Switch to Alternatives – International Survey Shows

  • 4 min read

Market-level findings from an international survey commissioned by Philip Morris International (PMI) and conducted by independent research firm Povaddo reveals a public appetite for a better approach to reducing the societal harm caused by cigarettes. Just over eight in ten (84 percent) South African survey respondents believe that encouraging those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch to smoke-free alternatives instead can complement other efforts to reduce harm.

Smoke-free products are designed to create a nicotine-containing vapour, without burning also referred to as non-combustible products. Through science and technology, nicotine delivery has been decoupled from burning tobacco to create smoke-free products such as heated tobacco products, e-cigarettes and other innovations, which are not risk-free but can significantly reduce the formation of harmful chemicals and the body’s exposure to these toxicants compared to cigarette smoke.

Conducted in December 2020 among 22,500+ adults in 20 countries and territories, the survey explores the attitudes regarding the role of smoke-free alternatives in improving public health. The results reveal broad support for novel approaches to accelerating the decline of cigarette smoking. Specifically, the survey found that, among South African respondents:

·     87 percent of adults agree that governments should consider the role alternative products can play in making their country smoke-free.

·     Almost nine in ten (89 percent) believe that adult smokers should have access to and accurate information about smoke-free alternatives that are scientifically substantiated to be better than continued smoking.

·     73 percent say that if it is possible to end cigarette sales in South Africa within 10 to 15 years (through smokers quitting tobacco or switching to better, science-based alternatives), their government should dedicate time and resources to making that a reality.

·     Reducing smoking rates remains an important public health issue, with three in four respondents (76 percent) believing it is important for governments to dedicate time and resources to achieve this goal. However, a majority (56 percent) believe that more regulation and taxation of cigarettes will not be enough to achieve a smoke-free future.

“Smoke-free products have already started to play an important role in lowering smoking rates,” said Jacek Olczak, Chief Operating Officer at PMI. “With the right regulatory encouragement, support from civil society, and the full embrace of science, I believe it is possible for the public’s call to be answered and for cigarette sales to be a thing of the past in many countries within a decade to a decade and a half.”

The majority of adults surveyed want to see a shift in the societal approach to tobacco harm reduction, including more collaboration between governments and tobacco companies.  In South Africa, over eight in ten respondents (82 percent) support tobacco companies working with governments, regulators, and public health experts to ensure smokers have access to and accurate information about the better, smoke-free alternatives science has made available.

 Additional insights:

A concerning number of South African respondents—41 percent—had seen, read, or heard conflicting or unclear information relating to e-cigarettes or heated tobacco products in the past six months.

Commenting on the results, Rishaad Hajee, Head of Corporate Communications at Philip Morris South Africa said, “it’s clear that misinformation threatens to impede progress by preventing those adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes from switching to better alternatives.”

“According to the survey’s findings, 84 percent of the respondents say they would be more likely to consider switching to a smoke-free alternative if they had clarity on how these products differ from cigarettes and the science behind them,” Hajee explained. “The results of this survey demonstrate that people want accurate information about better alternatives to cigarettes, and the science behind them.”

“With over 9 in 10 South African respondents expecting their national and regional government – as well as intergovernmental organizations like the WHO – to embrace advancements in science and technology, the message is loud and clear: don’t ignore the science,” he added. With regards to the survey methodology, Povaddo, a reputable consulting firm with expertise in the areas of public affairs, strategy and research, conducted this online survey on behalf of PMI between December 8 and 24, 2020. The survey was fielded among 22,500 general population adults aged 21 and older in 20 countries and territories: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.