For a smoke-free Africa

For a smoke-free Africa
Photo: Kobus | Adobe Stock

Misinformation and poor access to safer alternatives are the biggest obstacles to creating a smoke-free Africa, experts warn.

Africa is falling behind in the war against tobacco, by continuing to deny smokers access to the latest innovations to help them quit, warned experts at the 4th Scientific Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction.

In a panel discussion dedicated to the African region, experts cautioned that the World Health Organisation’s dated tobacco-control policies are no longer fit for purpose, and that smoking cessation programs no longer offer smokers the most effective tools to quit.

Dr Kgosi Letlape, President of the Africa Medical Association called on governments and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to write new regulations for safer nicotine products that are based on science to ensure their policies are guided by the latest medical research, much like they have for Covid-19.

“I hope the WHO will learn from Covid, where they’ve encouraged governments to rely on science to form regulation. The same thing should be done for tobacco. Smoking kills 8 million people a year globally, Covid has killed 4.5 million people in nearly two years. Smokers matter. Smokers are human too,” said Dr. Letlape during the panel.

The prevalence of misinformation and poor accessibility to safer nicotine products were highlighted as two of the key hurdles to Africa adopting a harm reduction approach during the session.

In Africa, there is significant confusion over the safety of new nicotine products with recent research by the International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking showing that four out of five South Africans wrongly believe that nicotine, e-cigarettes, and vaping cause lung cancer.  

Nicotine products are being used around the globe to help move smokers away from smoking deadly cigarettes. The WHO includes nicotine pouches and gums on its list of essential medicines, yet the global health organization is one of the leading sources of misinformation on the safety of e-cigarettes.  

The WHO’s position on these products has led to some African countries like Kenya restricting the products, despite evidence by the leading publications such as Cochrane, showing that nicotine products like vapes are 70% more effective than pouches and gums at helping smokers quit.

Safer nicotine products, like vapes and nicotine pouches, are completely inaccessible to the average Kenyan smoker.  By taxing and restricting safer alternatives the government is forcing people to keep smoking cancer-causing tobacco.


This article was translated and adapted into Spanish by the Vaping Today team. If you find any errors, inconsistencies or have information that may complement the text, please contact the contact form or by email to redaccion@thevapingtoday.com .

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Joseph Magero, de Kenia, es un abogado por la reducción del daño del tabaco, con principal actuación en el continente africano. Poseedor de una beca KAC y ganador del premio INNCO 2019, es el presidente de la organización transnacional Campaign for Safer Alternatives.

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