There are roughly 1.1 billion smokers worldwide, and the World Health Organization (WHO) expects that figure to remain roughly the same come 2025. Quitting tobacco and nicotine altogether will always be the best choice for smokers, yet despite this being widely known, in any given year, more than 9 out of 10 smokers will continue smoking.
Adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke deserve access to, and accurate information about, better alternatives. Recent years have seen substantial leaps forward in alternatives to smoking aided by new science and technology. Regulation must account for, and keep up with, the pace of scientific and technological progress. Regulation should seek to procure the maximum benefit to society, while simultaneously minimizing risk and uncertainty.
Unfortunately, an overly cautious regulatory approach in many countries around the world shuns alternatives. While caution is understandable, inaction is not without cost. Preventing adult smokers from learning about (and accessing) proven better alternatives to continued smoking means accepting the status quo—namely, that smokers who would not otherwise quit will continue to smoke cigarettes; the most harmful form of nicotine consumption.
An inclusive and informed dialogue about the role smoke-free alternatives can play in addressing this major global health challenge is urgent.