Opinion: Tobacco industry’s ‘harm reduction’ pledges ring false

February 24, 2023 – Publicly, the tobacco industry endorses harm reduction—a strategy aimed at reducing risks for people who use their products. But the reality, according to an opinion piece in STAT, is that the industry continues to oppose policies aimed at curbing cigarette use while promoting vaping, from which it stands to reap huge profits.

The February 21 article was co-authored by Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Michael Fiore of the University of Wisconsin.

“The tobacco industry’s take on harm reduction includes mass marketing nicotine-laden vaping products that flood retail outlets while furiously lobbying against the regulation of traditional cigarettes,” wrote Koh and Fiore. “This strategy could change. But for now, the companies’ embrace of e-cigarettes looks like a self-serving attempt at reinvention, not public health.”

The industry strongly opposes proposed Food and Drug Administration regulations aimed at preventing tobacco-related harms, such as banning menthol flavoring in cigarettes and significantly lowering nicotine levels in tobacco products to make them essentially nonaddictive, according to the article.

The co-authors called out the tobacco industry’s “profound and fundamental hypocrisy: promoting harm reduction while continuing to market and sell deadly combustible cigarettes that cause harm in the first place.”

Read the STAT article: Tobacco companies pledge ‘harm reduction’ but are doing the opposite