Educating Influencers to Move Harm Reduction Forward


David Sylvia

Senior Director, Government Affairs ─ Outreach Programs

Altria Client Services

Part of my team's focus is engaging with external policy audiences across all of the issues the company cares about. We've been spending a lot of time on tobacco harm reduction, focusing on different public policy groups and think tanks. They play an important role in bringing another voice to policy discussions at the federal and state level. We also work with tobacco harm reduction advocates to help educate them about the actions that our businesses are taking to bring less harmful products through the FDA process and into the marketplace, and the policy positions that we take.

We're helping create a policy environment that is conducive so that when we bring less harmful products to market they have an opportunity to be successful. This is a new concept in the legislative world so a lot of the focus has been to educate elected officials so that they understand what harm reduction is; the direction that the tobacco industry is moving; and how the FDA regulatory framework is changing.


If people are willing to meet with us, then we'll talk with them, listen to them and learn from their perspectives. It starts a dialogue and it starts to build trust.

If people are willing to meet with us, then we'll talk with them, listen to them and learn from their perspectives. It starts a dialogue and it starts to build trust. If you want to change attitudes and opinions on these new products, you need trust. We've seen positive steps with people who traditionally wouldn't take the time to listen to us, such as those in the public health and medical communities.

When I look back to when I started with the company in the late 90s, the policy and external environment were very negative. While we still have challenges, we are making significant strides in educating about the future of the tobacco industry and helping people understand why these new products can be helpful in reducing the overall death and disease caused by cigarettes. It's tough; it's hard; it's new - but it's setting the company up to be successful for another 100 years.

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