In the seminar organized by the Smoke free Association regarding reducing the harm caused by smoking, upon participation of Latvian and foreign experts, the most recent survey organized by the social research company KANTAR was presented. Experts of the seminar were discussing on possibilities of reducing the harm caused by smoking, especially emphasizing the necessity for a reasonable and corresponding regulation directly for the less harmful nicotine containing products.
Most (69%) of users of tobacco and nicotine containing products agree that there shall be available alternative smoke-free products for adult smokers, as well as an objective information on these products, meanwhile almost a half of users or 48% of tobacco and nicotine containing products agree that encouraging of adult smokers to fully switch on alternative smokeless products may be one of the ways of reducing the harm caused to society by cigarette smoke.
During the seminar Felicetta Catanzaro, Head of Scientific programs of Philip Morris International stated that many studies reveal that the alternative smoke-free products is significantly better choice than continuing to smoke traditional cigarettes. Therefore, the regulation of such less harmful alternatives should be corresponding, as well as adult smokers shall be ensured with a full information on these products.
Swedish Match Communication director in Norway and Baltic countries Nils Erlimo stressed out that the example of Sweden and Norway show that under appropriate conditions including the availability of information and available less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, as well as reasonable public policies, cigarette smoking is significantly reducing in society. He also points out that in Latvia, unfortunately, the number of smokers is significantly high and it is important to limit cigarette smoking, not the less harmful alternatives.
Data show that the most common tobacco product is cigarettes – 90% of smokers started smoking cigarettes and now they are daily used by 75% of smokers. Meanwhile from the smokeless products the most common are e-cigarettes that are used by 26% of users of tobacco and nicotine products, heated tobacco is used by 22%, meanwhile tobacco-free nicotine pouches – 6%. The main reason why the users of smoke-free products have started the use these products – to switch from cigarette smoking to a less harmful alternative. Such an opinion is convincingly expressed by every third user (38%) of smoke-free products.
Māris Sproga, Board Chairman of Smoke free Association emphasises : “Sociology confirms that – smoking is started with cigarettes, nevertheless the decisions adopted during the last year makes you think that exactly the cigarettes are protected by Latvian tax policy and politicians. They succeed since the newest data on excise goods sold at retail certify that the consumption of regular cigarettes has increased, but the use of less harmful smokeless alternatives – heated tobacco has decreased. Situation is absurd since one of the basic principles of health policy of developed countries is to restrict the use of traditional and harmful to health cigarettes. There are actively searched for solutions and alternatives that help to reduce smoking of traditional cigarettes that stimulate people to abandon this harmful habit forever.”
Ingmar Kurg, representative of Estonian Alliance of Smokeless Product Users indicated that Estonia encountered a non-considered tax policy and consequences of non-corresponding regulation – a large illegal market amounting to at least 80%, as well as non-corresponding and harmful to health use of products at home, upon mixing different liquids and tastes of e-cigarettes. This situation is partially prevented by the governmental decision to temporarily abolish application of excise tax to liquids of electronic cigarettes, as well as there commenced public debates in society on a reasonable tax policy for smoke-free products.
Māris Sproga turned the attention to the fact that the Latvian policy makers, possibly, have not noticed that business and industries are changing, where social responsibility crystallizes as one of priorities. Society currently requests smoke-free alternatives, reducing the harmful effect of smoking, and the government shall react. “Similarly as the combustion engines are being replaced by environmentally friendly electric motors and this fact is not even under discussion any more, so is the time for the tobacco industry to put an end to cigarette production. It is just normal that the state is involved in development of relevant regulation, but it is not understandable the desire to equate less harmful smokeless alternatives with the remnants of the past – cigarettes”, indicates M.Sproga.
Such open discussions and foreign experience is especially topical during the times when there are active debates held in Saeima regarding the latest amendments to the Tobacco Law. Industry supports a necessity of a reasonable regulation, clearly differentiating to reduce risk products from regular cigarettes and to stand for such a tax policy that enhances the choice of cigarette smokers in favour smokeless alternatives, reducing harm to oneself and the society.
Smoke free Association is satisfied that the regularly annual seminars on building a smoke-free society are getting more and more popular. The aim of seminars organized by BNA is to openly and in a high level discuss the policy of reducing the harm caused by smoking, to get introduced with public opinion research and the achievements in smoke-free industry, including the reduced risk alternatives for smokers in Latvia and abroad.
Key speakers of the seminar included Revita Logina, Senior Head of Key Accounts of the Public Opinion company KANTAR, Felicetta Catanzaro, Head of Scientific Programs of Philip Morris International, Ingmar Kurg, Board Member of Alliance of Smokefree Estonia, Nils Erlimo, Swedish Match Communication director in Norway and Baltic countries, John Dunne, General director of Vape Industry of United Kingdom and Dr. Aija Zobena, professor of University of Latvia.