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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Experts Urge Authorities To Embrace Tobacco Harm Reduction

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A new report from leading international public health and medical experts says that tobacco use is still too high in the Africa region and is being bolstered by myths about tobacco harm reduction (THR).  

The report by the International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking shows that tobacco demand has declined far too slowly in some low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). More than 80% of all tobacco users live in LMICs like Kenya.

There is now a need to scale up tobacco harm reduction (THR) as evidence shows that THR products are substantially safer than combustible cigarettes, and the products have been proven to be effective aids to help persistent adult smokers quit.

There is a whole new range of innovative THR products available to smokers, from electronic cigarettes to nicotine pouches and all of them significantly reduce the exposure of smokers to harmful substances.

The report highlights concerning misconceptions about THR in the Africa region including that two-thirds of those questioned in South Africa thought e-cigarettes were equally or more harmful than combustible cigarettes and that 80% who responded to the study thought nicotine, e-cigarettes and vaping cause lung cancer. 

The Commission was established to recommend a set of actions to accelerate an end to adult smoking and other toxic tobacco use. Chaired by Ambassador (ret.) James K. Glassman, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the Commission includes representatives from India, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Amongst the recommendations is a call to expand access to tobacco harm reduction products in LMICs, where most smokers live. Making these new technologies easily accessible to companies producing combustible products can save between 3 million and 4 million lives a year.

Amongst the expert authors is Dr. Kgosi Letlape, President of Africa Medical Association and President of Medical Councils of Africa, who addressed CASA’s forum earlier this year.  

Joseph Magero, chairman of the Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA), said: “This report highlights we need less talking and more action when it comes to tobacco harm reduction if we’re serious about reducing the 8,000 annual deaths in Kenya caused by smoking.”

“It clearly shows that misconceptions and untruths have been allowed to fester across Africa which have undermined the potential of tobacco harm reduction to benefit Kenyans.”

“We need public authorities to stand up and pay attention to this report and remove the barriers preventing Kenya and other countries across Africa from embracing the huge potential of tobacco harm reduction.”

The report by the International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking was published on 23rd September and can be accessed here: https://www.fightagainstsmoking.org/

By Joseph Magero, Chair Campaign for Safer Alternatives

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