Misinformation, Lack of Access and Confusion Hamper the Ability of Smokers Who Don’t Quit to Consider Better Alternatives, a New International Study from PMI Shows

Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE:PM) today released a white paper titled “Unsmoke: Clearing the Way for Change” based on findings from a major international study conducted for the company by independent research firm Povaddo. There is no question that, while the best choice is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether, the reality is that many people don’t. The survey—conducted in 13 countries among adults aged 21 to 74—forms the basis of the paper’s exploration around two core themes: the impact of smoking on personal relationships and the lack of information available about smoke-free products. It reveals some of the barriers that might be preventing smokers from considering smoke-free alternatives over continued smoking.

“There is currently a tremendous amount of misinformation circulating about smoke-free products, and this is causing confusion. It is one of the biggest hurdles the world faces in becoming smoke-free,” said Jacek Olczak, chief operating officer at PMI. “The reality is there are better options available to adult smokers who don’t quit. There urgently needs to be a new global conversation—based on scientific research and facts—about these alternatives.”

Untruths and Consequences

The white paper looks at the public appetite for a better conversation around how to make cigarettes a thing of the past—it’s a desire that’s not being fulfilled. While four in five respondents agreed that change is needed, just over half of the adult smokers surveyed (55 percent) said they have the information they need to make an informed choice about smoke-free products. In Israel, only one in four (25 percent) said they have all the information they need; in Australia, it was also below half (43 percent). Compare that with Hong Kong (66 percent), Italy (64 percent) and Brazil (62 percent)—the difference is pronounced.

Demand for information is strong: 90 percent of the public is aware of e-cigarettes, and nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) current smokers said they would be more likely to consider switching to better alternatives such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco products if they had clearer guidance on how these products differ from cigarettes. Across the 13 countries, the strongest consideration of switching as a result of better information was shown by the Latin American countries: Brazil and Mexico (both 85 percent) and Argentina (80 percent). The lowest likelihood was shown by two European neighbors: Germany (51 percent) and Denmark (47 percent).

The Impact of Smoking on Relationships 

The report explores the current mindset toward smoking of both smokers and nonsmokers, and the role smoking—and unsmoking—plays in personal and social relationships.

Quitting cigarettes and nicotine altogether is the best option, but compared to continued smoking, using smoke-free alternatives may have less of an impact on personal relationships. Almost half of former smokers (48 percent) who have switched to smoke-free alternatives reported improved relationships with family and friends since switching, and 45 percent reported that their social lives have improved as a result, with a slightly higher proportion of men than women reporting this improvement (48 percent vs. 41 percent, respectively).

Intimate relationships are not the only ones affected: The survey revealed that unsmoking could have a positive impact on social lives. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of nonsmokers stated they don’t like visiting smokers’ homes because they feel uncomfortable being around smoke. Even outside the home, nonsmokers say the worst smell of cigarettes is on smokers’ clothes (77 percent). This was a major dislike in all age groups: 21-34 years (74 percent), 35-54 years (78 percent), 55-74 years (79 percent). There was little difference in views between genders, with 75 percent of men and 79 percent of women agreeing that the worst smell of a smoker is their clothes.

Unsmoking may offer further opportunities to close the social gap between smokers and nonsmokers. According to the survey, smokers experience social awkwardness—with half (53 percent) saying they feel uncomfortable around nonsmoking friends and relatives even while not smoking. Particularly notable differences can be observed between Latin American and European countries. In Latin America, the countries surveyed—Brazil, Mexico and Argentina—polled higher than average (at 61 percent, 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively) on this statement. In European countries, people were less likely to agree: In Denmark, only 25 percent of respondents agreed; in Italy, 39 percent; the U.K., 40 percent; and Germany, 44 percent.

“We are creating a movement to help the world unsmoke,” said Marian Salzman, senior vice president, global communications at PMI. “These results are from one of the largest cross-cultural polls ever conducted about the impact of smoking on relationships. They show us where there are differences in social values, but, more important, they reveal the similarities that will help the #unsmokeyourworld initiative move from person to person, city to city, and smoker to unsmoker to bring about global change.”

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