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“Debate” is a series offering opposing sides of a continuing, controversial issue in tobacco control. In this and the three following articles, the likely future of the tobacco industry is discussed and debated by Clive Bates of ASH in London, Rob Cunningham from the Canadian Cancer Society, Stan Glantz from the Institute of Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco, and Michelle Scollo, from the VicHealth Tobacco Control Centre in Victoria, Australia
Here is a best case health scenario for the future of the tobacco industry. Despite the hopes of some of the health lobby, the industry will survive even the most severe litigation assaults. Even the worst judgements would leave the tobacco industry intact. Diversification into completely new businesses will not prove to be a commercial reality for the main companies involved because there is no advantage to non-tobacco business to be merged with tobacco. Regulators will assert proper jurisdiction over tobacco and force the companies to make products that are less harmful by setting emissions limits and product standards—for example, to reduce or remove carbon monoxide, carcinogenic nitrosamines, or many other toxins in tobacco smoke. Over time the delivery of nicotine through tobacco will evolve from combustion, through heating and oral use, and eventually to extracts and purified distillates.
Nicotine—the psychoactive chemical that differentiates smoking tobacco from smoking cabbage—will become recognised as the real “product”. The tobacco companies will face competition from new forms of nicotine delivery unconnected with tobacco and will have to respond by using the power of their brands to move into this market. Nicotine will continue to be widely used in society and many will be addicted, but the risk to users will be reduced—at least the option to reduce risk will be available. Concern about “addiction” rather than “disease” will …