In recent news, it has been reported that a congressional caucus dedicated to encouraging tobacco harm reduction is being formed with the backing of Philip Morris International (PMI). This caucus aims to address various aspects of the tobacco harm reduction debate and create a platform for discussing public health concerns, alternative products, and regulatory processes. In this article, we will delve into the details of the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus, its goals, and its potential impact on the tobacco industry and public health.
The Formation of the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus
The existence of the caucus was initially revealed by Politico, which highlighted the hiring of lobbyists by PMI in January to advocate for tobacco harm reduction, FDA oversight, and the establishment of this very caucus. These lobbyists, with their background in congressional and health-related matters, have been tasked with promoting the cause of tobacco harm reduction.
According to STAT News, the co-chairs of the caucus will be Pennsylvania Republican Representative Guy Reschenthaler and North Carolina Democrat Don Davis. Reschenthaler, a chief deputy whip in the Republican-controlled House, is currently serving his third term, while Davis is a first-term House member and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. The bipartisan nature of this caucus reflects its goal of uniting representatives from different political affiliations in addressing tobacco harm reduction.
Objectives of the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus
The primary objective of the tobacco harm reduction caucus is to provide a forum for comprehensive discussions on various facets of the tobacco harm reduction debate. Prospective members have been informed that the caucus will cover topics such as underage youth use prevention, risk-based taxation, strategies to enhance public understanding of less harmful alternative products, and the regulatory processes governing these products.
Understanding Tobacco Harm Reduction
Tobacco harm reduction, often referred to as THR, involves reducing the risks associated with tobacco by encouraging individuals who smoke to transition to less harmful tobacco or nicotine products that are not combusted. This strategy aims to promote alternatives such as vapes, smokeless tobacco, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco products (HTPs). It is important to note that the concept of THR and its name did not originate from the tobacco industry itself.
Influence of the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus
Over the years, Congress has deliberated and voted on numerous bills pertaining to vaping, nicotine, and tobacco-related issues, with limited input from pro-THR advocates. While PMI plays a significant role in the formation of this caucus, the independent vaping industry and consumers of vaping products also have the opportunity to participate and influence the discussions. By having a dedicated caucus focused on protecting the interests of vape and nicotine consumers as well as industry stakeholders, it becomes possible to counterbalance the prevailing anti-vaping and anti-tobacco narrative often shaped by organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and its allies. These influential groups have invested considerable resources in influencing the debate and promoting policies leaning towards prohibition.
Gregory Conley, the legislative and external affairs director of the American Vapor Manufacturers Association (AVM), lauded the formation of the THR caucus as a positive step. He emphasized the importance of adult vapers and small business owners reaching out to their respective members of Congress and expressing the significance of joining this initiative.
Philip Morris International’s Role and Transition to a Smoke-Free U.S.
The lobbying efforts of Philip Morris International align with the company’s entry into the American market, where it has committed to not selling combustible tobacco products. PMI, although sharing the name Philip Morris, is no longer affiliated with Philip Morris USA, which is a subsidiary of the Altria Group responsible for selling Marlboro cigarettes in the United States. PMI was spun off from the original Philip Morris company in 2008, subsequently renamed Altria. It is worth noting that PMI continues to sell cigarettes outside the United States.
In November of the previous year, PMI acquired Swedish Match, a manufacturer, for a substantial sum of $16 billion. This acquisition instantly granted PMI a significant presence in the American low-risk nicotine market. Swedish Match is known for its ZYN nicotine pouches, which are market leaders in the United States, and General snus. Furthermore, PMI has plans to introduce its heated tobacco product, IQOS, in the U.S. market, having reacquired the licensing rights.
Swedish Match received the distinction of being the first company to receive a modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) designation from the FDA in 2019 for eight varieties of General-brand snus. PMI’s IQOS and IQOS Heatstick refills also earned an MRTP designation in 2020.
While PMI sells vaping products in Europe under the name IQOS VEEV, it has not ventured into the U.S. market, as doing so requires obtaining FDA authorization through the premarket tobacco application (PMTA) pathway. Reports from January suggest that PMI was considering a potential partnership with or acquisition of Juul Labs, another prominent player in the vaping industry.
To bolster its American presence, PMI has brought in well-known advocates from the vaping industry, namely Paul Blair, previously associated with Turning Point Brands, and Amanda Wheeler, who has a background with Jvapes and the American Vapor Manufacturers Association. These individuals have joined PMI in government affairs roles.
The formation of the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus represents a significant development in the ongoing debate surrounding tobacco harm reduction. This bipartisan caucus aims to create a platform for open discussions on various aspects of public health, risk reduction, and regulatory frameworks concerning tobacco and nicotine products. With the backing of Philip Morris International, this caucus presents an opportunity for pro-THR voices, including the independent vaping industry and consumers, to have a stronger presence and influence in shaping legislation and policies.
- Q: What is the Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus? A: The Congressional Tobacco Harm Reduction Caucus is a newly formed congressional caucus backed by Philip Morris International, dedicated to addressing tobacco harm reduction and discussing related legislative goals.
- Q: Who are the co-chairs of the caucus? A: The caucus is co-chaired by Representative Guy Reschenthaler, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Representative Don Davis, a North Carolina Democrat.
- Q: What topics will the caucus cover? A: The caucus will cover a wide range of topics related to tobacco harm reduction, including underage youth use prevention, risk-based taxation, public understanding of less harmful alternatives, and regulatory processes governing these products.
- Q: What is tobacco harm reduction? A: Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a strategy aimed at reducing the risks associated with tobacco use by encouraging individuals to switch to less harmful tobacco or nicotine products that are not combusted, such as vapes, smokeless tobacco, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco products.
- Q: How does the caucus impact the tobacco industry? A: The caucus provides an opportunity for pro-THR voices, including the independent vaping industry and consumers, to influence discussions and legislation concerning tobacco harm reduction, countering the influence of anti-vaping and anti-tobacco groups.