You are here
Home > HEADLINES > Stakeholders in tobacco industry proffer harm reduction techniques

Stakeholders in tobacco industry proffer harm reduction techniques

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Described by critics as hazardous to the health, emerging and less harmful alternatives by scientists could change the way people view smoking, writes Eric Dumo

For several minutes, Kola Adejare could not get his eyes off the small, black device held by his cousin, Yemi, a software engineer based in Leeds, United Kingdom. The 35-year-old recently visited the family home in Lagos, Nigeria’s main commercial city, after being away in England for almost 10 years. An ardent cigarette smoker like 33-year-old Adejare, the young man has been getting along well with his cousin since his arrival despite being away for so long. But unlike the former, who smokes the conventional cigarettes, which a number of health groups including the World Health Organisation claim causes a lot of harm, Yemi smokes the e-cigarette – an invention still out of the reach of many ordinary citizens in Nigeria and other developing societies due to its high cost. In many big malls and online stores in Nigeria, the price of one starts from around N5000 – about $14 – depending on the quality and make.

“When I first saw the device with my cousin, Yemi, I thought it was a smartphone charger,” Adejare said jokingly during a recent encounter with our correspondent. “I never knew it was the much talked about e-cigarette,” he added quickly. “I have tried it out and I think it is really cool. It was completely smokeless unlike the normal cigarette. I really like it and would definitely get him to give me one before he heads back to the UK,” he said.

Unlike Adejare, who courtesy of his cousin, appears to have found a new and less harmful way of satisfying his urge for cigarettes, majority of Nigeria’s over 4.5 million smokers are left to settle for the conventional ones largely due to a lack of information on the emerging alternatives and also the relatively high cost in the few places the items are available. The Federal Government, in a recent report through the Ministry of Health, said that Nigerians consume 20 billion cigarettes yearly, while statistics from Global Adult Tobacco Survey indicates that around N89.5bn is spent on tobacco products in the country annually – about $247m.

But despite these impressive figures and its contribution to the national economy, critics say cigarette smoking leads to around seven million deaths globally each year and must be eradicated – an argument those on the other side of the debate say would not only lead to crisis but a loss of revenue for many economies around the world especially in Africa. Proponents of this argument posit that banning smoking would be akin to throwing away the baby and the bathtub. There are around 1.3 billion cigarette smokers in the world and taking this item completely out of their reach rather than providing safer alternatives would lead to more problems, experts warn.


At a recent workshop on harm reduction held in Johannesburg, South Africa, experts from across all fields relevant to the discourse including journalists, gave insights into how the continent can drastically minimise the risks associated with smoking and the alternatives addicts can explore to stay healthy. While it was unanimously agreed that safer alternatives was the best way to solve the current puzzle, stakeholders rejected calls for the total ban on smoking as being clamoured in some quarters.

Describing e-cigarettes and other emerging alternatives as having the potential to significantly reduce the harm those unwilling to quit smoking may face, Managing Director of Philip Morris, South Africa, Hugo Marcelo Nico, said more awareness of the benefits of the new invention would go a long way in saving lives.

“Treating all products the same way will not help,” he said. “What we need to do is give the correct information to smokers.

“We need to be able to differentiate between combustible and non-combustible products because there is a difference,” he added.

Corroborating Morris’ view, Vice President, Corporate Affairs EEMA and Duty Free, Philip Morris International, Alessandro Maria Poggiali, revealed that efforts were ongoing to make less harmful cigarettes more available and affordable in most parts of Africa especially in big countries like Nigeria.

According to him, these new alternatives were borne out of years of serious research and would significantly reduce the health risk associated with inhaling smoke from conventional cigarettes.

“We want to transform ourselves and the industry by offering consumers better alternatives to smoking.

“We have launched these products including our flagship product iQos e-cigarette in more than 38 countries all over the world in the last two years and that’s an incredibly exciting moment for us.

“Our scientific and developmental effort has produced a different number of platforms to meet the different consumer needs and demands. So, we are confident we will have the right option for every type of consumer.

“We believe that these alternatives are better for the consumer, better for the society, and for those around the consumer.

“Our goal is to make this product available to all smokers all over the world, and it’s a strong commitment that we have taken,” he said.

President of the American Vaping Association, Gregory Conley, said public health organisations rather than demonising smoking must concentrate on helping smokers find safe alternatives. He said cigarette smoking was a reality the world had to live with rather than seeking to completely wipe it out.

“For 25 years, public health organisations have said that ‘if you can’t quit by yourself, then use pharmaceutical items such as gum, the patch or lozenge’.

“But, in the real world, those products have a 3 to 9 per cent success rate. Of course, most smokers want to quit but many don’t; they smoke because they like it and we must provide alternatives for them,” he said.

But calling for utmost caution and sincerity while seeking for a favourable ground for all stakeholders, President of the Health Professions’ Council of South Africa and co-founder of Africa Harm Reduction Alliance, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, said it was important to find a balance between the argument of tobacco products manufacturers and public health concerns.

“What we should look at is creating a product that reduces the risk associated with smoking a combustible.

“We should accept that human beings are risk-taking animals and our duty as health professionals is to introduce ways to reduce the risk to their health.

“The smoker matters. We must not forget the smokers. They have rights too and we should be offering alternatives.

“The elephant in the room for Africa, in particular, is the WHO and accepting everything it recommends hook, line and sinker. Other countries, such as the United States, don’t take all the WHO recommendations; they think around them and apply them according to the needs of their environment.

“If we are producing new products, we are producing new jobs too but Africa needs regulation otherwise we’re going to be the dumping ground for all the combustibles,” he said.

Recently the Nigerian Tobacco Atlas raised the alarm on the rising spate of smoking in Nigeria, pointing that around 16,100 citizens die annually due to diseases caused by tobacco consumption. Stroke, lung cancer, asthma, induction and exacerbation, low birth-weight, pre-term delivery have been identified as some of the attendant consequences of exposure to second hand smoke for even non-smokers. Though the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, inaugurated the National Tobacco Control Committee not too long ago and the Nigerian Tobacco Control Act passed into law, poor implementation has continued to leave many citizens at the mercy of many cigarette makers. Experts say until the new alternatives gradually pushed into the market by big industry players like Philip Morris prove to indeed be less harmful and within the reach of Africa’s growing army of smokers, the ‘war’ – or ‘big debate’ – may be far from over.

Copyright PUNCH.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]            

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)
Facebook Comments

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Leave a Reply