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Majority seeks more options to stop smoking — study

Eight out of 10 people around the world want governments to adopt a different approach to cut down smoking apart from regulation and taxation, a new research released by Philip Morris International shows.

The vast majority—83 percent of the respondents—agree that people who would otherwise continue smoking cigarettes should have the right to accurate information about smoke-free alternatives, according to the PMI research called “Unsmoke: Clearing the Way for Change.”

“There is currently a tremendous amount of misinformation circulating about smoke-free products, and this is causing confusion. It is one of the biggest hurdles the world faces in becoming smoke-free,” said PMI chief operating officer Jacek Olczak.

“The reality is there are better options available to adult smokers who don’t quit. There urgently needs to be a new global conversation—based on scientific research and facts—about these alternatives,” Olczak said.

The research was based on a major international study conducted for the company by independent research firm Povaddo. 

The study says that while the best choice is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether, the reality is that many people don’t. 

The survey—conducted in 13 countries among adults aged 21 to 74— forms the basis of the paper’s exploration around two core themes: the impact of smoking on personal relationships and the lack of information available about smoke-free products. It reveals some of the barriers that might be preventing smokers from considering smoke-free alternatives over continued smoking.

In the Philippines, PMI’s affiliate PMFTC conducted its own public opinion research in 2018 and found that roughly two-thirds of the respondents believe that a country becoming smoke-free is both desirable (68 percent) and a realistic goal (64 percent).

PMFTC also found out that 60 percent of tobacco users who do not use smoke-free products would consider switching to products like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products with 15 percent being very interested. 

On the PMI research, the study looked at the public appetite for a better conversation around how to make cigarettes a thing of the past—it’s a desire that’s not being fulfilled. 

While four in five respondents agreed that change is needed, just over half of the adult smokers surveyed (55 percent) said they have the information they need to make an informed choice about smoke-free products.

In Israel, only one in four (25 percent) said they have all the information they need; in Australia, it was also below half (43 percent). Compare that with HongKong (66 percent), Italy (64 percent) and Brazil (62 percent)—the difference is pronounced.

Demand for information is strong: 90 percent of the public is aware of e-cigarettes, and nearly 7 in 10 (68 percent) current smokers said they would be more likely to consider switching to better alternatives such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco products if they had clearer guidance on how these products differ from cigarettes.

Across the 13 countries, the strongest consideration of switching as a result of better information was shown by the Latin American countries: Brazil and Mexico (both 85percent) and Argentina (80 percent). The lowest likelihood was shown by two European neighbors: Germany (51 percent) and Denmark (47 percent).

The report explores the current mindset toward smoking of both smokers and non-smokers, and the role smoking and unsmoking—plays in personal and social relationships.

Quitting cigarettes and nicotine altogether is the best option, but compared to continued smoking, using smoke-free alternatives may have less of an impact on personal relationships. Almost half of the former smokers (48 percent) who have switched to smoke-free alternatives reported improved relationships with family and friends since switching, and 45 percent reported that their social lives have improved as a result, with a slightly higher proportion of men than women reporting this improvement (48 percent, 41 percent, respectively).

Intimate relationships are not the only ones affected. The survey revealed that unsmoking could have a positive impact on social lives. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of nonsmokers stated they don’t like visiting smokers’ homes because they feel uncomfortable being around smoke. 

Even outside the home, nonsmokers say the worst smell of cigarettes is on smokers’ clothes (77 percent). This was a major dislike in all age groups: 21-34 years (74percent), 35-54 years (78 percent) and 55-74years (79 percent).

as little difference in views between genders, with 75 percent of men and 79 percent of women agreeing that the worst smell of a smoker is their clothes.

Unsmoking may offer further opportunities to close the social gap between smokers and nonsmokers. According to the survey, smokers experience social awkwardness—with half (53percent) saying they feel uncomfortable around non-smoking friends and relatives even while not smoking. 

Particularly notable differences can be observed between Latin American and European countries. In Latin America, the countries surveyed—Brazil, Mexico and Argentina—polled higher than average (at 61 percent, 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively) on this statement. 

In European countries, people were less likely to agree: In Denmark, only 25 percent of respondents agreed; in Italy, 39 percent; the U.K., 40 percent; and Germany, 44 percent.

“We are creating a movement to help the world unsmoke,” said Marian Salzman, senior vice president, global communications at PMI. 

“These results are from one of the largest cross-cultural polls ever conducted about the impact of smoking on relationships. They show us where there are differences in social values, but, more important, they reveal the similarities that will help the #unsmokeyourworld initiative move from person to person, city to city, and smoker to unsmoker to bring about global change,” she said.

#Unsmokeyourworld is a PMI initiative to speed up a historic change in public health. 

“Through the #unsmokemovement, we want to bring together a community of people who can accelerate this change by reinforcing the message that quitting cigarettes and nicotine altogether is the best choice any smoker can make and becoming advocates of the message that for smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke, there are better alternatives to choose from,” Salzman said. 

Topics: Philip Morris International , smoking , smoke-free alternatives
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