Smoking has risen 50% in Africa over 35 years even as it drops in high-income regions, and the region’s fast-growing population means smokers’ numbers are set to swell further. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, causing about eight million deaths worldwide annually. Africa has about 77 Million smokers, with 250,000 of them dying every year from smoking related diseases.


Despite some effort by Africa in achieving some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reducing tobacco use has proved the hardest to deliver. Reducing tobacco use plays a major role in global efforts to achieve the SDG target to reduce premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by one third by 2030. Governments here may not be aware that tobacco harm reduction has great benefits, both economically and for health; this lack of information, in turn, hinders a reduction in smoking prevalence in the region. As smoking rates drop in high income regions thanks to reduced risk alternatives, smoking rates in Africa have risen 50% in over 35 years. Scientific advances have led to the creation of new nicotine delivery products that have saved millions of lives. 


Yet new products may not be readily accessible to those in need due to a variety of factors, including systemic challenges caused by weak regulatory oversight, particularly in Africa. Tobacco harm reduction within a regulated framework, encouraging smokers to use safer nicotine containing products, should be supported by governments in Africa. In order to tackle harmful effects of smoking in the developing countries, more so Africa, Snus, E cigarettes and heat-not-burn products should be made available and affordable. These products should be made affordable to smokers in developing countries as an urgent human rights issue. Governments also have a mandate to disseminate accurate information on safer nicotine products to allow smokers to make informed decisions.


Also, the global decline of smoking could have many positive health impacts but could bring negative economic consequences to tobacco farmers, many of whom are in Africa. In order to address the agricultural impact of smoking cessation; our organization is focused on identifying economically sustainable alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers.

Integrating tobacco harm reduction measures in the fight against smoking can generate health, economic and other development returns, accelerating Africa’s achievement of many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).





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