The recent report by Public Health England which is the seventh independent report on vaping in England, revealed that the use of e-cigarette (vaping) is the most commonly used means to quit smoking. Previous report from Public Health England has also reinforces the fact that vaping is 95% safer than smoking cigarette. This recent independent report, by renowned expert researchers at King’s College London, summarizes evidence on vaping products to inform policies and regulations.
This independent report provides the opportunity for African countries, national health authorities and other stakeholders in low- or middle-income countries and globally to rethink and embrace tobacco harm reduction. This is much-needed in that approximately 80% of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers are inhabitants of low- or middle-income countries.
Smoking remains the biggest single risk factor for preventable death and years of life lived in ill-health and is a leading cause of health inequalities in Africa and other countries of the world. Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) refers to a strategy designed to reduce the health risks associated with tobacco smoking, but which may involve the continued use of safer nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and snus. It is increasingly clear that tobacco harm reduction will reap enormous benefits for public health in reducing the mortality and morbidity associated with tobacco use in Africa. Tobacco harm reduction provides the opportunity for smokers to significantly reduce harm related to smoking. Embracing tobacco harm reduction will also help ensure that the WHO’s sustainable development goal (SDG) target to reduce premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by 2030 is achieved.
Tobacco harm reduction must be seen and accepted as a safer and viable option for smoking cessation. Governments of African nations are in a unique position to make policies that favour THR, increase conversation generated around harm reduction, and bring stakeholders and partners together to determine how harm reduction can be successfully implemented in Sub-Saharan Africa. The combination of tobacco control policies with tobacco harm reduction strategies will potentially help Sub-Saharan Africa to reduce the smoking rate and the associated mortality and morbidity rates.
Due to the numerous challenges presented by tobacco smoking in Sub-Saharan Africa, the opportunities for THR products are diverse and varied. More effort is required in order to bring the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and the potential benefits of THR to the public’s attention. The benefits of THR can only be realised in Africa if the governments, partners and stakeholders work together to make THR successful in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This recent report from Public Health England reinforces the vast benefit tobacco harm reduction can reap in achieving a smoke-free Africa. It is time for Africa to embrace tobacco harm reduction. Joseph Magero, Chairman of Campaign for Safer Alternatives, commented on the report:
“Today’s report from Public Health England is great news for vapers in Africa. We have further confirmation vaping is a way out of smoking. Regulators and policy makers on the continent need to consider science when forming regulation.”
Adebisi Yusuff Adebayo
Head of Research (Campaign for Safer Alternatives)