Jamiołkowski: A special moment of transformation for the tobacco industry

“Poles have seen the value in new product categories and are keen to use them”, says Roman Jamiołkowski, legal and regulatory affairs director at BAT Poland.

Publikacja: 08.09.2023 02:28

Jamiołkowski: A special moment of transformation for the tobacco industry

Foto: Aleksander Zieliński

From British American Tobacco to just BAT.

While this may seem like a small change, for us it is very important. We abandon the use of the word “tobacco” in our company name for a good reason. We are constantly evolving and, as a result, we are focused on reducing the harm associated with the tobacco consumption. We are now a company involved in new nicotine categories. We are moving away from tobacco as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches are modern tobacco-free products.

What does the future hold for large companies in Poland in the near future?

For the moment, we are all waiting for the elections and the decisions to be taken by those in power. The regulatory world is dynamically changing and depends on many factors. It concerns our industry as well. As is easy to imagine, this generates a lot of work, as changes have to be tracked and implemented in businesses all the time.

So, a lot is going on. Is that a good thing?

It is good that the Ministry of Finance is starting to build a plan that includes a broader perspective, e.g., in the area of taxation and excise duties. An excise roadmap has already been outlined. We also know what the excise duty increases will be until 2027; this is important because it gives the whole industry more stability and the opportunity for more precise planning. The Ministry of Finance is in talks with entrepreneurs, taking our perspective into account and talking openly about plans. This space for discussion outside the standard public consultation process is to be applauded.

I understand that a civilised dialogue is taking place.

We are seeing it more and more often. We would also love to see the Ministry of Health participating as we are currently at a particular point in the transformation of the tobacco industry. It is fair to say that we are putting an offer on the table to reduce the risks associated with tobacco products, and it is worth discussing. However, at the same time, I understand that the Ministry of Health is conservatively saying, “We will not talk to tobacco”. Nevertheless, I hope that a constructive dialogue can be established.

But “tobacco” is no longer in the company name.

Correct. The new product categories we offer to customers are an attempt to convert traditional smoking into far less harmful categories. We therefore hope that the Ministry of Health will open up to dialogue and at least listen to what the industry has to say. There has been a recent change of minister and we are in the pre-election period. We therefore assume that there will be no significant changes from a regulatory perspective during this time. We do not expect a revolution in law. But after the elections, when the new parliamentary term begins, we should start a serious dialogue.

How has corporate social responsibility changed the way your company operates?

We extend the ESG strategy to HESG, where H stands for health. The health perspective is crucial. I think our primary responsibility is to reduce the social costs associated with the consumption of nicotine products. Heated tobacco reduces harm relative to traditional smoking by up to 90%! E-cigarettes are even higher on the ladder of risk reduction and nicotine pouches do not emit an aerosol. This no longer puts a strain on the respiratory system.

Will the medical community say that there are other consequences? Yes, that is why we should act together, sit down, and talk. Let’s try to move the smoking public into new categories together; let’s offer people new solutions. At the same time, let’s make parents aware not to encourage young people to smoke.

Further issues that fall under social responsibility are zero-carbon emissions and tax issues. We are aware of the kind of company we are and the responsibility we have. Of course, we are declaring zero-carbon in our business with a view to 2030, but this is not the key issue expected of the nicotine industry. What is important, conversely, are the large contributions to the State Treasury in terms of excise duties and declarations, i.e., that we run the market stably, so that these revenues will be there.

We are also taking the necessary steps to maintain social solidarity, an example of which was the withdrawal of BAT from Russia and Belarus. We sell our Russian and Belarusian businesses to a consortium led by Russian executives. Social, sustainability, environmental, and governance issues continue to be a priority for us.

You have a lot to be proud of. There are many good things happening at the Augustów factory.

We are a manufacturing company, so we are subject to all the laws that cover such businesses. We need to monitor what is happening with the water cycle in the factory. We pay attention to how to make it circular and what steps to take to save water. Further issues include reducing energy consumption, attempting to recycle and recover energy, and ultimately sourcing all energy from green sources. We will be zero-carbon by 2030.

The company is an international concern. How important is the Polish market to you?

Poland is a very important market for companies globally. We are the largest market in our region. Poland is responsible for operations in the Baltic States, so we can be described as a regional hub. Tobacco and nicotine consumption statistics show that Poland has a huge market of about 8 million people who smoke. The Ukrainian community is also a large proportion of smokers. Hard data shows that the numbers are not falling, as the Ministry of Health would like. However, it is worth bearing in mind that these statistics are artificially boosted by migration movements.

Here, however, it should be emphasised that Poland is a specific market. Poles have seen the value in new product categories and are keen to use them. We can be a model for other European markets that are more firmly rooted in traditional smoking. Poles want to take care of their health, so they are trying e-cigarettes, pouches, or heated tobacco. This consumer spirit must not be neglected.

What is your “better tomorrow” strategy about?

This strategy is all I have already mentioned. We are taking steps to move away from the consumption of tobacco products and burning them at 600 degrees and move towards, for example, heating tobacco. New technologies make it possible to go as low as 300 degrees. E-cigarettes are a good alternative — tobacco-free. Nicotine pouches, on the other hand, do not emit an aerosol at all. We want to reduce the health risks associated with tobacco consumption while contributing to the state budget. This is how we see a better tomorrow.

— recorded by Grzegorz Balawender

PARTNER: BAT POLAND

.

From British American Tobacco to just BAT.

While this may seem like a small change, for us it is very important. We abandon the use of the word “tobacco” in our company name for a good reason. We are constantly evolving and, as a result, we are focused on reducing the harm associated with the tobacco consumption. We are now a company involved in new nicotine categories. We are moving away from tobacco as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches are modern tobacco-free products.

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