• July 24, 2024

Keynote: Kingsley Wheaton (given by Jonathan Atwood)

 Keynote: Kingsley Wheaton (given by Jonathan Atwood)

During GTNF 2023, BAT’s global head of business communications, Jonathan Atwood, told attendees how BAT’s five-step plan for regulation could support achieving the right balance between harm reduction and the unintended consequences of access, including underage use.

“As an industry, we stand at an important crossroads. There is much confusion as to the way forward. Consumers are slightly confused. Doctors are slightly confused. Regulators are slightly confused and are struggling to enforce the laws they have written,” said Atwood. “What’s too often missed is the opportunity that tobacco harm reduction presents. The opportunity for a more progressive environment where both tobacco harm reduction and the role of [vaping products] is far better understood.”

Speaking on behalf of Kingsley Wheaton, BAT’s chief strategy and growth officer, Atwood said that reckless players in the market need to be penalized when they do not abide by the rules. He said the five suggestions are the areas that regulators should explore and then establish “smart regulation” that is right for their market.

“When I talk about smarter regulation, I mean regulation that is evidence-based, concentrated by nature, and achieving its policy aims while also avoiding unintended consequences. Greater partnership is required to achieve this,” Atwood said. “We must join forces externally with regulators and policymakers to try and create catalysts for positive change if smoke-free ambitions are to be met. Sustained and lasting changes to consumer behavior are difficult. However, it is consumer choice that offers the greatest hope for making a cigarette obsolete.”

Atwood said that the five areas were where smarter regulation could be applied to the vapor category to build a “more progressive environment” for tobacco harm reduction. He said the recommendations would need to be applied to the entire market and combined with greater enforcement. The five steps Atwood outlined included:

  • On-device technology and functionality: Vapor products should be accessible only to adults. Both underage prevention and restriction is crucial. On-device technology, when applied and enforced across entire markets, could help in this regard.
  • Flavors: More recognition is needed that flavors are an important driver of adoption for smokers seeking alternatives. However, flavors in vapor products should not particularly appeal to anyone underage.
  • Manufacturing and import level: ensuring that noncompliant products cannot reach the market in the first place.
  • Right to sell: Where no restrictions exist already, regulators may want to look at who should be able to sell vapor products and where. Reasonable safeguards at the point of sale would help ensure these products are sold only to adult consumers. Solutions such as retail licensing and facial recognition technologies should be seriously considered.
  • Enforcement and penalties: Governments must wield their power and ensure consumers are purchasing legitimate products. Such measures should be rigorously enforced, and those who fail to comply should face meaningful sanctions.

Atwood said BAT was calling upon governments, regulators and industry peers to rally toward a sustainable and progressive environment in which vaping products are sold and marketed responsibly.

“The time for boldness is now. The time to change the conversation is now. The time to change the outcome is now. The opportunity for change is here. It is not about relaxing regulations. It’s about recalibrating them to align with the evidence and aspirations of millions seeking a better alternative to smoking,” said Atwood. “We have the opportunity to redefine the future of public health, and it begins with smarter regulation that reflects the reality of smoking alternatives and provides smokers the freedom to choose less risky products.”