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Massimo Andolina, President Europe Region At Philip Morris International (PMI)

Aiming To Replace Cigarettes

Philip Morris is the current leader and trailblazer in reducing the harm caused by tobacco. It is one of the most inspiring cases of a company utilising science and innovation to impact positively on society

Despite how difficult it is for people to overcome their addiction to cigarettes, more than 25 million people have succeeded in making less harmfull choice over the past seven years thanks to the better alternatives they are being offered by Philip Morris.

What trends in the field of tobacco harm reduction could be applied in Serbia?

The trends in tobacco harm reduction are, first and foremost, innovation and science to bring consumers new and improved products. But the trends I would like to talk about are those in countries that have embraced tobacco harm reduction and recognised the role of better alternatives in enhancing reductions in smoking rates. Sweden has, for example, embraced tobacco harm reduction for over 30 years, which has allowed it to reduce smoking rates from 20%, which is the approximate average in Europe today, to just 5.6%.

A world free of tobacco smoke is a big mission on your business agenda. What do you see as the key factors in transforming society towards realising this mission? What are the tools?

If you’re asking on the basis of my experience to date, the most critical thing is to inform people. And this becomes particularly important in the specific case of Serbia, given the high rate of smokers in the Serbian population that’s around the highest in Europe, with approximately 37% of the country’s legal age population smoking.

The key at this point is to get the regulator to start making decisions based on science and not on ideology

The most important thing is to provide people with information and create awareness about the associated risks. And this is something companies can’t do alone. It needs to be done in conjunction between the regulator, the government and companies, which can then bring that information, and also the products, to the smoker.

What are the key challenges in changing the whole landscape in general?

The key at this point is probably to get the regulator to start making decisions based on science and not on ideology or dogma. The issue with cigarettes is not tobacco or nicotine, but rather the combustion of organic matter that releases substances that are just bad for you. And I think at this point that we have the knowledge and the science, and have made the innovations, so it’s time for us to move on; to continue along the path like we’re seeing with certain governments in Europe. A large country like France is stuck on a law that is 30 years old, when those innovations didn’t exist, and fails to recognise the difference between, for instance, a cigarette and a heated tobacco product. That doesn’t do a good service to smokers in their endeavour to cut out smoking.

This is really a trailblazing mission of PMI towards improving public health?

It’s a trailblazing mission of ours. We have stated clearly that we want to unsmoke the world! We want to replace cigarettes! If you consider that this is the core business of our corporation, we’re saying we want to kill our business in favour of one that brings better alternatives to the world. I can only hope that this will inspire organisations like the WHO. We should look at what’s best for people, and in this case what’s best for smokers.

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