Successfully converting a significant portion of adult smokers to non-combustible products represents a substantial opportunity for our adult tobacco consumers, our business, society and our shareholders. That's why, over the next 10 years, Altria's Vision is to responsibly lead the transition of adult smokers to a non-combustible future.

Our approach to tobacco harm reduction is informed by a deep understanding of adult tobacco consumers. We know that different segments of adult tobacco consumers are looking for a range of different product formats, flavors and nicotine levels. We aim to achieve three important consumer expectations:

  • superior sensory experiences;
  • reduced health risks and accurate relative risk information; and
  • the ability to avoid social friction associated with cigarettes, such as smoke odor, ash and social isolation.

 

In 2019, we strengthened our competitive position regarding reduced-harm products for adult smokers. We've built a diversified non-combustible business model to further our tobacco harm reduction goals. We're seeking authorization from regulators to provide adult smokers with truthful, accurate information about reduced-risk products. And we're working diligently – through responsible marketing practices, partnerships with the trade, policy advocacy, and investments supporting tobacco cessation and underage use prevention – to keep the harm reduction opportunity open for adult tobacco consumers.

paige magness svp

Paige Magness

Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

"For decades we have been committed to offering adult smokers better alternatives and ensuring a regulatory framework to determine if those products offer lower risk and how to appropriately communicate about them. That future is here and, at Altria, we embrace it. Across our companies, we’re working hard to bring scientifically supported, lower risk products to market and to lead adult smokers to these new, better options.  And we're fully engaged in the science, policy and regulatory dialogue necessary to innovate and deliver the satisfying alternatives adult smokers need and want."

FDA's PATH Study

pie chart showing 22 million smokers are interested in lower risk products

The percentage of U.S. adult cigarette smokers is at an all-time low – 13.7 percent, or 34.2 million current users, according to the Center for Disease Control's 2018 National Health Institute Survey. Still, cigarette smokers represent the majority of users among the estimated 49 million U.S. adults who use any tobacco product – combustible or non-combustible. And we know that millions of adult smokers are interested in alternatives to cigarettes that reduce the risk of smoking – over half, according to the FDA’s Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study.

Our Goals

  • Offer lower risk tobacco products that will help convert adult smokers and engage the FDA constructively about those products
  • Provide access to expert quitting information for those who have decided to quit

FDA's Regulatory Authority over Tobacco Products

The success of tobacco harm reduction in the United States hinges on a regulatory framework that allows manufacturers to provide adult tobacco consumers with potentially reduced-risk tobacco products and communicate accurate health information about them, including information about their lower risks relative to cigarette smoking.

The foundation for this regulated marketplace exists today, as a result of the 2009 Tobacco Control Act which gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority over nearly all aspects of the manufacturing, distribution and marketing of tobacco products. Importantly, the Act provided pathways to bring innovative, potentially reduced-harm products to market, and make reduced harm claims about new or existing products. 

Reversing Underage Use Trends

Tobacco products are for adults. And we recognize that underage use of tobacco products threatens the opportunity to reduce harm among adult smokers.

FDA has called underage use of e-vapor an epidemic and says more must be done. We agree. That's one reason we supported raising the minimum age of purchase for all tobacco products to 21.

As stated by one of the bill's sponsors, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, "This bill gives the FDA the power it needs to help addicted smokers overcome their addiction, and to make the product less toxic for smokers who are unable or unwilling to stop."1

With the FDA's expansive authority to define the tobacco marketplace, the Agency is in the leading position to create a mature, regulated tobacco marketplace that successfully reduces the harm caused by combustible cigarettes by: 

  • executing product authorization pathways to create a diverse marketplace of potential reduced risk tobacco products; 
  • communicating to address misperceptions that hinder adult smoker adoption of potentially harm reducing non-combustible products; 
  • investing in proven tactics to reduce underage tobacco use; and
  • engaging with key stakeholders to improve upon national surveys and provide appropriate, timely and efficient information to rapidly address emerging challenges in the dynamic tobacco category.

The FDA is the only federal agency with the Congressional mandate and the necessary authority and resources to lead tobacco harm reduction efforts. That's why the Agency's ability to coordinate federal strategy and drive efficient resource allocation towards these efforts is crucial for reducing the death and disease associated with combustible cigarettes.

We have long supported the FDA's regulatory authority and believe that continued engagement between the FDA and tobacco manufacturers is necessary for progress. And as the FDA addresses the necessary regulatory conditions, it is our responsibility to be ready – with a portfolio of potentially reduced-risk products that satisfy adult smokers’ evolving interests.

Nicotine & The Continuum of Risk

Unfortunately, persistent misperceptions regarding the role of nicotine and the relative risks of different tobacco products prove to be a significant obstacle to adult smokers choosing products that present potential reduced harm as compared to combustible cigarettes. For example, a 2016 study analyzing data from the Health Information National Trends Survey found "a high prevalence of incorrect beliefs about the relationship between nicotine and cancer."2 Specifically, the study found "Most people (73%) either incorrectly believed that nicotine is the main substance in cigarettes that causes cancer or were unsure about the relationship between nicotine and cancer."3

As the FDA states on its website: “Most people know that cigarettes and other tobacco products are addictive, but many people do not understand the role of nicotine in tobacco addiction, disease, and death. Nicotine is what addicts and keeps people using tobacco products, but it is not what makes tobacco use so deadly. Tobacco and tobacco smoke contain thousands of chemicals. It is this mix of chemicals–not nicotine–that causes serious disease and death in tobacco users, including fatal lung diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer.”4

FDA and other public health authorities agree that there is a broad "continuum of risk" among tobacco products, with combustible cigarettes at the highest end of that spectrum and complete cessation at the lowest end.

In fact, when FDA announced its Comprehensive Plan in 2017, then-FDA Commissioner Gottlieb stated FDA policy should be used as a vehicle to "move addicted smokers down that continuum of risk to these less harmful [innovative] products."6 The then-Commissioner also shared his concerns regarding the widespread misperceptions around nicotine among the American public.

Helping Reduce UTP Use Photo

Communicating Tobacco Health Effects

The public should be guided by the messages of the U.S. Surgeon General, the FDA and other public health authorities worldwide in making decisions concerning the use of tobacco products.

Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum

Altria's Remarks 

"With adult smoker demand for non-combustible alternatives, innovation and an appropriate regulatory framework, we have the opportunity to make more progress on reducing the harm caused by cigarettes in the next 10 years than we have in the past 50 years."

tobacco plant

Federal Regulation of Tobacco

Science- and evidence-based federal regulation will help address societal concerns about tobacco products and promote and protect public health.

1 Press Release, Cardin Holds Press Conference to Praise Senate Passage of Bill to Regulate Tobacco (June 12, 2009), available at https://www.cardin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/cardin-holds-press-confernce-to-praise-senate-passage-of-bill-to-regulate-tobacco.
2 O'Brien, E. K., Nguyen, A. B., Persoskie, A., & Hoffman, A. C. (2016). U.S. adults' addiction and harm beliefs about nicotine and low nicotine cigarettes. Preventive Medicine, 96, 94-100. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.12.048
3 Id.
4Nicotine: The Addictive Chemical in Tobacco Products, Food & Drug Administration, August 28, 2020 View Source
5 Adapted from Dorothy K. Hatsukami et al., Developing the Science Base for Reducing Tobacco Harm, 9 Nicotine & Tobacco Res. S537, S546 (2007)
6 "… we must acknowledge that there’s a continuum of risk for nicotine delivery. That continuum ranges from combustible cigarettes at one end, to medicinal nicotine products at the other.” Remarks by Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Protecting American Families: Comprehensive Approach to Nicotine and Tobacco (June 28, 2017), available at https://www.fda.gov/news-events/speeches-fda-officials/protecting-american-families-comprehensive-approach-nicotine-and-tobacco-06282017.