Insights: Transforming for a better tomorrow
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Insights: Transforming for a better tomorrow

Insights: Transforming for a better tomorrow

A collaborative and stakeholder inclusive approach is required to further advance the concept of tobacco harm reduction in the kingdom

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Recent research conducted by Kantar, a leading data and insights consulting company, reveals that 411 per cent of adult nicotine consumers in Saudi Arabia recognise the harm reduction potential of electronic nicotine delivery products.

To further advance the cause of tobacco harm reduction in the kingdom, a collaborative and inclusive approach involving stakeholders is crucial. This approach should be rooted in evidence-based regulations, supported by local scientific research that demonstrates the reduced risk potential of alternative nicotine delivery products.

Establishing robust quality standards for these products is essential to ensure the availability of high-quality options that cater to the evolving needs of adult consumers in Saudi Arabia.

Comparative analysis

To evaluate the effectiveness of alternative nicotine delivery products and minimising the harm caused by cigarettes, it’s imperative to address prevalent misconceptions through scientific evidence.

Tobacco harm reduction hinges on the widely accepted notion that the majority of smoking-related harm is caused by inhaling toxicants from burning tobacco, not nicotine itself. Leading public health authorities and research institutions, including the World Health Organization2 and Public Health England3 , estimate that electronic nicotine delivery products emit fewer and lower levels of toxicants compared to traditional cigarettes.

For instance, Public Health England states that e-cigarettes are approximately 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. This approach aligns with the efforts of BAT, a leading multicategory consumer goods company which invests significantly in research and development to introduce innovative alternatives to smoking and reduce its health impact.

Alternative solutions in the market

The company is clear that combustible cigarettes pose risks, and it acknowledges that the best way to avoid these risks is not to start or to quit. Consequently, it is focused on creating reduced-risk* products backed by science, which offer adult smokers less risky* alternatives to traditional smoking and has invested almost GBP350m towards the same.

In 2021, BAT also published a comprehensive report highlighting 10 years of scientific evidence on electronic nicotine delivery products. The paper featured a summary of more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers and other evidence published by an estimated 50 institutions over the past decade.

Currently, the company offers an expanding range of reduced-risk* products, including vapor, tobacco heating and modern oral products that cater to the diverse preferences of adult consumers.

Regulations in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s decision to regulate and legalise the sale of alternative nicotine delivery products is commendable and represents a significant step towards advancing tobacco harm reduction. Research indicates that 374 per cent of adult smokers in Saudi Arabia are open to transitioning to potentially reduced-risk products, suggesting a positive trajectory for tobacco harm reduction.

To further its impact, ensuring consistent enforcement of quality standards will safeguard adult consumers and legitimate industry players.

Knowledge versus public opinion

Perceptions about the harm of alternative nicotine delivery products stem from a disconnect between scientific knowledge and public opinion. Beliefs regarding nicotine’s role in smoking-related harm overshadow the fact that it’s primarily the toxicants from tobacco smoke that cause harm.

While nicotine is addictive and not without risks, its presence in products that are designed to be less risky* than cigarettes can encourage adult smokers, who would not otherwise quit smoking, to choose these alternative nicotine products instead of cigarettes. Engaging in transparent dialogue, promoting research, and leveraging evidence can correct misconceptions and empower adult smokers to make informed choices.

Saudi Arabia’s journey towards tobacco harm reduction depends on collaborative, stakeholder-inclusive approach, science-backed regulations, enforcement on quality standards, dissemination of accurate information and amplification of scientific evidence.

By fostering a supportive environment, aimed at encouraging the adult smokers, seeking to make informed choices, the kingdom can make significant strides in reducing the harm caused by tobacco use.

The writer is the general manager of BAT Middle East.


*Based on the weight of evidence and assuming a complete switch from cigarette smoking. These products are not risk free and are addictive.


[1] KSA NC Track 2022 – 2023, Kantar



[4] KSA Nicotine Incidence 2022, Kantar

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