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04/24/2023

Altria Survey: Majority of Americans Support Tobacco Harm Reduction

More than eight in 10 respondents think it is important for the Food and Drug Administration to focus on making smoke-free tobacco products available to adult smokers.
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A person using an electronic cigarette

RICHMOND, Va. — Americans are in favor of tobacco harm reduction over prohibition as public policy, according to the results of a new survey released by Altria Group Inc.

Results show that two in three Americans support harm reduction, a public health strategy that supports transitioning adult smokers who can't or won't stop smoking to less-risky tobacco products, over blanket prohibition as the better policy approach to tobacco regulations.

Additionally, more than eight in 10 Americans (82 percent) think it is important for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to focus on making smoke-free tobacco products available to adult smokers to help them switch from cigarettes.

"There is clear, overwhelming support for the FDA embracing harm reduction for the 30 million American adults who smoke. That means providing adult smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit with wider access to smoke-free alternatives and providing them the information and support to help them switch," said Paige Magness, senior vice president, regulatory affairs, Altria Client Services. "Pursuing harm reduction is one of the most powerful steps the FDA can take to deliver on its mission to reduce tobacco-related death and disease in the U.S. It is our hope that the FDA will listen to these voices as it sets out its policy agenda for the coming years."

Ninety percent of Americans agree that the FDA has a responsibility to accurately inform adult tobacco consumers about the risks associated with different tobacco products and 88 percent agree that the agency has a responsibility to address the widespread misperception that nicotine causes cancer.

Altria also released findings that show adults agree that policies banning tobacco products will lead to illicit markets for such products, endangering public health, youth and communities of color:

  • 84 percent believe youth will have easy access to tobacco products in an illicit market;
  • 84 percent believe bootleg tobacco products sold in an illicit market are more dangerous for consumers than regulated products;
  • 66 percent are concerned that an illicit market for tobacco products will lead to an increased burden on law enforcement; and
  • 65 percent are concerned that an illicit market for tobacco products will result in an increase in policing in communities of color.

"Most Americans understand that prohibition-based policies don't work and that it's much better for public health to keep tobacco products legal and regulated," Magness continued. "Harm reduction is the better path forward. With harm reduction, regulators provide adult smokers with information, choice and support to expand the off-ramp from smoking — while also continuing to drive down underage use."

Regarding underage smoking, 66 percent of adults believe that preventing youth usage of tobacco products should be addressed without banning or prohibiting tobacco products that are already legal for adult consumers, according to Altria.

Results of the survey also show that 79 percent of adults agree that if certain tobacco products have been scientifically shown to be less risky than cigarettes, physicians have a responsibility to communicate this information to their patients who are adult tobacco consumers and have not successfully quit smoking by using traditional cessation therapies. Of primary care physicians themselves, 89 percent support tobacco harm reduction as a public health concept and 85 percent believe it is important for the FDA to focus on making smoke-free tobacco products available to adult smokers to help them switch from cigarettes to less harmful alternatives.

Richmond-based Altria's wholly owned subsidiaries include Philip Morris USA Inc. and John Middleton Co. Its smoke-free portfolio includes ownership of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC and Helix Innovations LLC.

Additionally, Altria has a majority-owned joint venture, Horizon Innovations LLC, and, through a separate agreement, has the exclusive U.S. commercialization rights to the IQOS Tobacco Heating System and Marlboro HeatSticks through April 2024.