Tobacco and health

The risks associated with smoking are well known, and we believe that adults should be allowed to choose whether or not to smoke.

We recognise that it is the role of governments to provide the general public with clear and consistent messages about the health risks to smokers that are associated with their smoking. We do not challenge those messages.

There have been more than fifty years of intensive medical and scientific research into tobacco smoking and health.

Statistics show that smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop lung cancer and certain other diseases. This conclusion is derived from epidemiological studies, which are questionnaire-based observations of populations or groups of people. These studies have shown that smoking is associated with several diseases and have led public health authorities to conclude that smoking is a cause of lung cancer and other diseases in smokers.

The component or combination of components as found in cigarette smoke which may cause human disease remain unidentified despite decades of laboratory research, including research undertaken by or on behalf of Imperial Tobacco.

There are occasions when we believe it is right for us to provide detailed explanation and analysis of our views on the breadth, depth and complexity of the medical and scientific research into tobacco smoking and health. These occasions include meetings with governments and government appointed agencies or their scientific and medical representatives, together with court proceedings, tribunals and inquiries.

We agree that smoking can be characterised as addictive as the term is commonly used today. While some people may find it difficult to stop smoking, we believe it is important for them to understand that they are able to stop if they choose to do so. Millions of people have stopped smoking, the majority without assistance.

This position is equally applicable to all other tobacco products, including snuff and snus.

We recognise concerns that other people’s tobacco smoke may be harmful, unpleasant or annoying.

However, it is our view that the scientific evidence, taken as a whole, is insufficient to establish that other people’s tobacco smoke is a cause of any disease. Therefore bans or restrictions on smoking in public places are disproportionate, unnecessary and unjustified on grounds of protecting public health. We will continue to voice our concerns about the adverse effect they have on smokers and on the venues which may wish to allow smoking.

We believe that concerns about smoking in public places can be resolved through common sense and courtesy and by introducing practical solutions such as well-ventilated smoking and no-smoking areas into workplaces, restaurants and other public places.

There are countries that have introduced regulations to accommodate smokers and non-smokers. While we do not believe that any legislation is necessary, we prefer approaches that retain an element of freedom and choice for adults.

The statistical population studies (epidemiology) which have led to claims that other people’s tobacco smoke is a risk to health are subject to methodological flaws. Taken as a whole, the studies do not demonstrate a difference in the incidence of disease between non-smokers who are exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke and non-smokers who are not. Combining the studies through a process called meta-analysis resolves none of the original flaws and creates additional flaws.

In the same way as smokers should show courtesy to other adults, this courtesy should be extended to children, who are often unable to exercise a choice over their environment and surroundings in the way that adults can.

See also:

This document was written for the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on their inquiry on Government Policy on the Management of Risk

Snus is a type of oral snuff. We are aware of several studies that have indicated a statistical association between oral snuff and some oral and other cancers. Just as we do not believe that any cigarette is safe, it is also our view that snus should not be regarded as safe or safer than other tobacco products.

Snus is a tobacco product. As such, snus may be described by some as addictive, but that does not mean that people are unable to stop using snus if they choose to do so.

We recognise that it is the role of governments to provide the general public with clear and consistent messages about the health risks that are associated with the use of tobacco products. We do not challenge those messages. It is our policy that a clearly visible health warning will appear on packs of all tobacco products manufactured and/or marketed by Imperial Tobacco, as well as on any outer packaging intended to be presented to the consumer.

Snus is sold in a number of countries worldwide and we believe that there is no justification for a ban on the use of snus within the European Union.

The European Union (EU) introduced a comprehensive ban on snus in 1992. Sweden negotiated a permanent exemption from the ban when it joined the EU in 1995. Outside the EU, snus is sold in Norway, USA, Canada and South Africa.

In environments where smoking is restricted and snus is permitted, consumers may regard snus as a complementary or alternative form of tobacco.