With over 60 years of experience in the Middle East, British American Tobacco (BAT) has witnessed the vitality and dynamism of this region which has helped it to become the hub of economic activity that it is today.
BAT has also gone through a period of transformation. Like any great transformation, success depends on a solid foundation, and BAT’s foundation is clear in our corporate purpose to build a better tomorrow.
As we strive to achieve our goal, we are committed to reducing the health impact of our business by providing adult consumers with a wide range of lower-risk alternative products*†. Our focus is based on the concept of tobacco harm reduction, which aims to reduce the harms associated with smoking and encourage those who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch completely to scientifically proven, reduced-risk alternatives*†.
Although our business has historically centered on combustible cigarettes, we understand that the world is changing and with it consumer preferences and the expectations of society and our stakeholders. In line with our vision, we have set ourselves ambitious goals. Today we have approximately 150 million consumers worldwide – our ambition is to have 50 million of our consumers using our non-combustible products by 2030. To achieve this, significant R&D investment is underway, as we have invested an additional £426 million into our reduced risk*† portfolio of vapor, tobacco heating and modern oral products in 2020.
For tobacco harm reduction to be effective, facts must lead the conversation. At BAT, we are committed to educating adult consumers about the science regarding the reduced risk potential of these products so they can make informed decisions. At the same time, we also know that combustible cigarettes pose serious health risks and the only way to avoid these risks is to not start smoking or to quit.
The concept of tobacco harm reduction has been endorsed by many public health officials around the world. In the Middle East, awareness of the growing body of evidence demonstrating its effectiveness has led to various regulatory reforms. This is positive as regulatory frameworks and excise structures need to be proportionate to the risk associated with these alternative nicotine delivery products. Enforcement of these regulations is equally important to ensure product safety and quality. We look forward to continuing to work with policy makers in the region to explore the potential for tobacco harm reduction.
As a global company, we are committed to increasing our contribution to economic and talent development in the region. Alongside our office in the United Arab Emirates, which supports our operations in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa, we have established two new entities in Saudi Arabia to form the hub of our operations in the Middle East. East: BAT Saudia and BAT Arabia. We also launched our global steam brand, Vuse, in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Its successful launch gave us confidence that many adult nicotine users in the Middle East are looking for less risky alternatives*†.
We remain optimistic about the growing awareness of tobacco harm reduction as a public health policy. Working with governments and public health actors, we believe a brighter future in the Middle East is on the horizon – for 2022 and beyond.
Javed Iqbal is the Regional Director, BAT Middle East, South Asia and North Africa
*Based on weight of evidence and assuming complete smoking cessation. These products are not without risk and are addictive
† Our products sold in the United States, including Vuse, Velo, Grizzly, Kodiak and Camel Snus, are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and no reduced risk claims will be made regarding these products without the FDA clearance.