Japan’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Efforts Are Working

In Japan smoking rates are disappearing thanks to the increased use safer nicotine alternatives. 

A 2021 paper by Frost & Sullivan in collaboration with tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) titled, “Tobacco Harm Reduction and Novel Nicotine and Tobacco Products: Evidence from the Japanese Market,” found that the entry of HTPs has led to a drop of 34% in cigarettes sales.

When compared to 2016, reported volumes of cigarettes have now declined by 42%.

“The commercial availability of HTPs in Japan is associated with a significant drop in conventional cigarette sales, well ahead of the previous rate of decline. Moreover, even after Heated Tobacco Products became available, sales of all tobacco products (Heated Tobacco Products and conventional cigarettes) continued to fall. Although there is mixed evidence, data from the 2019 National Health Survey indicates that 76% of consumers who use Heated Tobacco do so exclusively. Only 24% of HTPs users maintain dual-use,” said Mark Dougan, Consulting Director, Healthcare, Frost & Sullivan.

2021 data: Japan’s domestic cigarette sales had fallen by 8.2%
Similarly, Japan Tobacco International’s third-quarter results for 2021 showed that Japan’s domestic cigarette sales had fallen by 8.2% following an 8.9% decline in the preceding quarter.

Such a pattern had already been observed back in 2018, with the Financial Times reporting that Philip Morris’ heated tobacco product, IQOS, was laying waste to cigarette sales in Japan. According to the report, “shipments of traditional cigarettes” declined by more than 7% in 2018, which had followed an 11.5% decline in the first quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, shipments of “heated units” increased from 1.2 billion to 6.4 billion during the period, while during the quarter, nearly 9% of PMI’s’ global revenue was from reduced-risk products.

HTPs played a major role in reducing cigarette sales
When compared to 2016, reported volumes of cigarettes have now declined by 42%. An American Cancer Society research study in 2020 concluded that heated tobacco products “likely reduced cigarette sales in Japan.” Another 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health came to a similar conclusion, stating that “the accelerated decline in cigarette-only sales since 2016 corresponds to the introduction and growth in the sales of heated tobacco products.”

Similar patterns have been observed in the UK and Sweden. The UK has achieved the lowest smoking rates ever recorded thanks to endorsing the use of vaping products for tobacco harm reduction and smoking cessation. While Sweden has reached a smoke-free statues by legalizing snus and embracing its use as a safer alternative to cigarettes.