Misinformation threatens progress toward a smoke-free future, reveals a new international survey released by Philip Morris International.
The survey—fielded among nearly 30,000 adults in 26 countries by independent research firm Povaddo and commissioned by PMI—reveals that many adult smokers remain unaware that better alternatives to cigarettes exist, are unable to access them or are confused by false or misleading information that prevents them from making an informed choice.
Nearly eight in 10 respondents (79 percent) agree that adult smokers who would otherwise continue using cigarettes should have access to and accurate information about smoke-free alternatives. This view is shared by 87 percent of current adult smokers.
“People expect public health bodies and regulators to reach a scientific consensus around innovative smoke-free alternatives and provide adults who smoke with evidence-based information about these products,” said Gregoire Verdeaux, senior vice president of external affairs at PMI, in a statement. “Misinformation about smoke-free alternatives—often based on opinion—is a persistent issue that is having real-world consequences.”
The survey also shows the extent of public confusion surrounding smoke-free products. Nearly half the adults surveyed wrongly believe that e-cigarettes and heated-tobacco products are more harmful than or equally harmful as cigarettes (45 percent and 46 percent, respectively, for each product category). Asked why they have not considered switching to a better alternative, around a third of smokers surveyed cited lack of information about how these products differ from cigarettes (33 percent), uncertainty about the science (35 percent) or having easier access to cigarettes (32 percent).
According to PMI, the survey findings also demonstrate how accurate information about better alternatives can help smokers to move away from cigarettes. The vast majority (91 percent) of adult smokers who have switched to a better alternative and stopped smoking confirmed that having accurate information about how these products differ from cigarettes was an important factor in their decision. Of adults who smoke, 63 percent would be more likely to switch to a better alternative (such as e-cigarettes or heated-tobacco products) if they had clarity on how these products differ from cigarettes and the science behind them.
The survey also explores public attitudes toward scientific studies conducted by manufacturers of smoke-free products. A majority of adults surveyed (82 percent) believe their governments have a responsibility to objectively review and consider scientific evidence about smoke-free alternative products coming from manufacturers such as PMI. Additionally, nearly three quarters (72 percent) support tobacco companies working with governments, regulators and public health experts to ensure that smokers have access to and accurate information about smoke-free alternatives.