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Americans Overwhelmingly Support Providing Adult Smokers Less Harmful Alternatives to Cigarettes

4/14/2023
  • Nearly three-quarters of adults support the public health strategy of tobacco harm reduction
  • Two-thirds of adults think the FDA, which regulates all tobacco and nicotine products, should focus on harm reduction, instead of prohibition; 78 percent of policy professionals agree with this approach

According to a survey released today by Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO), two-out-of-three Americans support tobacco harm reduction, an established 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 regulation. The survey also shows that 82 percent think it is important for the 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.”

The surveys also show that 90 percent 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 FDA has a responsibility to address the widespread misperception that nicotine causes cancer.

Most adults also agree that policies which ban tobacco products will lead to illicit markets for tobacco 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
  • 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,” said Magness. “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.”

Underage smoking rates are at historically low levels (1.6 percent) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey data1. Youth vaping rates have declined from a peak of 20 percent in 2019 to 9.4 percent in 2022 according to the same survey. This signals that current regulations, like raising the legal age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21, are working to reduce underage use of tobacco products. Considering this, 66 percent of adults believe that preventing youth usage of tobacco products should be addressed, but without banning or prohibiting tobacco products that are already legal for adult tobacco consumers.

The survey results also underscore the clear expectations that adults have for physicians to help adult smokers who want to switch. Seventy nine percent 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.

In addition to general population adults, the survey asked primary care physicians about their views on tobacco harm reduction. Of those surveyed, 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.

Policy professionals were also surveyed and overwhelmingly believe that harm reduction is a better approach for the FDA to focus on than prohibition (78 percent), that tobacco products should remain legal so they can be properly regulated (77 percent) and that the FDA has a responsibility to accurately inform adult tobacco consumers about the different levels of risk associated with tobacco products (96 percent).

Survey Methodology

General Population

The findings are drawn from a nationwide online survey fielded November 22 - December 2, 2022 by Metrics & Insights LLC for Altria Client Services LLC among n=1,501 U.S. adults age 21 and older. The interview length averaged 17 minutes. The margin-of-error is +/-2.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval. Survey results are weighted to represent the entire 21 and older population of the U.S. using census population survey demographic data (age, gender, region, race). The primary purpose of this survey was to obtain current measures of societal perceptions, attitudes and opinions on tobacco harm reduction on smoke-free tobacco products.

Primary Care Physicians

The findings are drawn from a nationwide online survey fielded November 29 - December 12, 2022 by Metrics & Insights LLC for Altria Client Services LLC among 261 primary care physicians. The interview length averaged 16 minutes. Survey results for the primary care physician sample are weighted to represent the primary care physician population of the U.S. by gender and race using AMA Physician Masterfile, Dec. 31, 2018. The margin-of-error is +/- 6.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The primary purpose of this survey was to obtain current measures of societal perceptions, attitudes and opinions on tobacco harm reduction on smoke-free tobacco products.

Policy Professionals

The findings are drawn from nationwide online survey fielded November 29 - December 9, 2022 by Metrics & Insights LLC for Altria Client Services LLC among 151 policy professionals. The interview length averaged 23 minutes. The margin of error for this sample is +/- 8.0 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The primary purpose of this survey was to obtain current measures of societal perceptions, attitudes and opinions on tobacco harm reduction on smoke-free tobacco products.

The complete surveys can be found on www.altria.com.

Altria’s Profile

We have a leading portfolio of tobacco products for U.S. tobacco consumers age 21+. Our Vision by 2030 is to responsibly lead the transition of adult smokers to a smoke-free future (Vision). We are Moving Beyond Smoking™, leading the way in moving adult smokers away from cigarettes by taking action to transition millions to potentially less harmful choices - believing it is a substantial opportunity for adult tobacco consumers, our businesses and society.

Our wholly owned subsidiaries include leading manufacturers of both combustible and smoke-free products. In combustibles, we own Philip Morris USA Inc. (PM USA), the most profitable U.S. cigarette manufacturer, and John Middleton Co. (Middleton), a leading U.S. cigar manufacturer. Our smoke-free portfolio includes ownership of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company LLC (USSTC), the leading global moist smokeless tobacco (MST) manufacturer, and Helix Innovations LLC (Helix), a leading manufacturer of oral nicotine pouches.

Additionally, we have a majority-owned joint venture, Horizon Innovations LLC (Horizon), for the U.S. marketing and commercialization of heated tobacco stick products and, through a separate agreement, we have the exclusive U.S. commercialization rights to the IQOS Tobacco Heating System® and Marlboro HeatSticks® through April 2024.

Our equity investments include Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (ABI), the world’s largest brewer and Cronos Group Inc. (Cronos), a leading Canadian cannabinoid company.

The brand portfolios of our tobacco operating companies include Marlboro®, Black & Mild®, Copenhagen®, Skoal® and on!®. Trademarks and service marks related to Altria referenced in this release are the property of Altria or its subsidiaries or are used with permission.

Learn more about Altria at www.altria.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

12022 NYTS past 30-day cigarette smoking among middle and high school students combined. Source: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/pdfs/mm7145a1-h.pdf (Table 1).

Altria Client Services
Investor Relations
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Altria Client Services
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Source: Altria Group, Inc.