Nicotine reduction and consumer perception: a scientific approach for quantifying possible impact of low nicotine cigarettes on consumer behaviour
In 2015, the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) issued an advisory note recommending a strategy to reduce nicotine in tobacco to levels which would not be sufficient to lead to the development and/or maintenance of addiction. In the US, the FDA is also considering regulating nicotine content in cigarettes.
Nicotine is naturally synthesised by the tobacco plant, so any lowering of nicotine levels in tobacco cannot be achieved without a careful genetic selection of crop varieties and substantial changes to existing agronomic practices. Otherwise, field trials with low nicotine tobacco varieties developed by conventional breeding techniques (reported separately in a poster) shows that crop yield and leaf quality are reduced in field trials when nicotine is reduced.
Additionally, nicotine plays a role in the smoking experience (sensory effect, taste, aroma, etc.). Several publications report that reduced nicotine cigarettes are unsatisfactory for consumers. The implementation of a low nicotine regulatory agenda may encourage consumer to switch to products that will provide a more familiar experience.
Considering the consumer dissatisfaction to low nicotine products, we developed dynamic population modelling to quantify the possible changes of consumer behaviour in sense of acceptation, cessation or switching to other trade products, including illicit ones. Baseline status transitions were derived from published data. Several scenarios were considered to cover a range of probabilities for smokers to switch to illicit products. The impact on smoking prevalence and illicit trade over time was then simulated. Our poster will present the various possible impacts of the implementation of reduced nicotine regulation, if consumers have limited access to acceptable alternative products.