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Eur J Clin Invest. 2013 Dec;43(12):1366-70. doi: 10.1111/eci.12172. Epub 2013 Oct 9.

Endgame: engaging the tobacco industry in its own elimination.

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Department of Medicine, Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford, CA, USA; Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA; Department of Statistics, Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford, CA, USA.


A billion deaths from tobacco are expected by 2100. Many policy interventions such as increased taxation, restrictions on advertisement, smoking bans, as well as behavioral interventions, such as pharmacological and psychological treatments for smoking cessation, decrease tobacco use, but they reach their limits. Endgame scenarios focusing on tobacco supply rather than demand are increasingly discussed, but meet with resistance by the industry and even by many tobacco control experts. A main stumbling block that requires more attention is what to do with the tobacco industry in endgame scenarios. This industry has employed notoriously talented experts in law, business, organization, marketing, advertising, strategy, policy, and statistics and has tremendous lobbying power. Performance-based regulatory approaches can pose a legal obligation on manufacturers to decrease - and eventually - eliminate tobacco products according to specified schedules. Penalties and rewards can make such plans both beneficial for public health and attractive to the companies that do the job well. We discuss caveats and reality checks of engaging the tobacco industry to eliminate its current market and change focus. Brainstorming is warranted to entice the industry to abandon tobacco for other profit goals. To get the dialogue started, we propose the wild possibility of hiring former tobacco companies to reduce the costs of healthcare, thereby addressing concurrently two major challenges to public health.

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