Do Tobacco Companies Have an Incentive to Promote “Harm Reduction” Products? The Role of Competition

David T Levy*, Frances Thirlway, David Sweanor, Alex Liber, Luz Maria Sanchez-Romero, Rafael Meza, Clifford E. Douglas, K. Michael Cummings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Some cigarette companies have started to talk about replacing cigarettes with less harmful alternatives, which might include nicotine vaping products (NVPs), heated tobacco products (HTPs) and oral nicotine delivery products (ONDPs). We consider market competition as a primary driver of whether cigarette companies follow through on their stated intentions.

We focus on the behavior of cigarette companies in the US. We compare competition in the pre- and post-2012 time periods, analyze the impact of the growth in NVPs on smoking prevalence and cigarette company profits, and examine the potential future role of competition.

Since 2006, consumers have broadened their use of non-combustible nicotine delivery products (NCNDPs) to include, inter alia, NVPs, HTPs and ONDPs. US cigarette companies have acquired major stakes in each of these product categories which corresponds to a period of rapidly declining adult smoking prevalence, especially among younger adults (ages 18-24 years). The shifting dynamics of the nicotine product marketplace are also reflected in cigarette company stock prices. While cigarette companies are likely to promote HTPs and ONDPs over NVPs, their incentives will be directly related to competition from independent firms, which in turn will depend on government regulation.

While cigarette companies will back alternatives to combusted tobacco when threatened by competition, the prospects for their lasting conversion to NCNDPs will depend on the extent of such competition, which will be influenced by government regulation of tobacco products.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Jan 2023


  • Tobacco Industry/economics

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