Worried by about 30,000 annual deaths and rising healthcare costs from smoking, experts at Tobaco Harm Reduction event have advocated the adoption of Sweden model for smoke free-future
The experts who spoke at the Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) held in Lagos believe that a tobacco smoking free nation is capable of producing healthy citizens who are strong enough to participate effectively in economic activities, thereby contributing significantly to the nation’s economy.
Nnanyelugo Ike-Muonso, a professor and president, ValueFronteira, a leading public health expert, declared Sweden’s model as the key and called on Nigeria and other African countries to replicate Sweden’s model.
Europe’s champion low-smoking nation, with the world’s lowest lung cancer and cardiovascular disease rates, according to him, owes much to embrace safer alternatives to cigarettes.
These alternatives to conventional cigarettes are snus, heated tobacco, e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, which are viable alternatives to combustible tobacco.
“Tobacco heating products [THPs] – heat tobacco generate an aerosol. Snus, a smokeless tobacco product in pouches, has shown tangible harm reduction benefits. E-cigarettes, producing vapour instead of smoke, have been endorsed as less harmful by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.
“Vapour products are gadgets that heat liquid compositions using batteries to create a vapour. Heated tobacco devices have demonstrated a decrease in cigarette sales, and nicotine pouches offer a smoke-free option. Modern oral products include tobacco-free nicotine pouches,” Prof Ike-Muonso explained.
He said “Research has shown that alternative tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and oral nicotine products like snus and nicotine pouches, can serve as options for adult smokers who switch to these alternatives, thereby potentially reducing the harm associated with smoking.
It is noteworthy that the tax rates for alternative tobacco products are often lower than those for combustible cigarettes, reflecting the lower risk associated with these products.”
According to Ike-Muonso, this is a pivotal moment for Nigeria. THR, if embraced and nurtured, can chart a healthier, smoke-free course for millions. Investing in it isn’t just about cigarettes; it’s about saving lives, reducing healthcare burden, and building a healthier future for generations.”
He presented an 8-point roadmap for immediate actions required for the successful implementation of THR policies in Nigeria namely: Immediate development of a comprehensive THR Policy Framework aligned with global best practices and tailored to Nigeria’s unique context; launch extensive public awareness campaigns to educate citizens, healthcare professionals, and policymakers about the benefits of THR; the Nigerian health authorities should forge partnerships with media outlets to disseminate accurate information and counteract misinformation regarding THR policies.
Other roadmaps are to Strengthen knowledge about THR policies among healthcare professionals through targeted training programs and awareness initiatives; work on policies and reduce excise duties on risk-reduction products that ensure affordability compared to traditional cigarettes, making them accessible to a broader population; encourage research and development in THR, supporting innovations and advancements in less harmful alternatives; collaborate with international organizations and countries successfully implementing THR policies to gain insights and support and institute robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of THR policies regularly.
“We implore our policymakers to prioritize public health by embracing tobacco harm-reduction alternatives, raising awareness among the general public, and making these harm-reduction products not only accessible but also affordable. The time to act is now, and we are ready to support and collaborate with the government in this critical journey toward a smoke-free Nigeria,” Prof. Ike-Muonso submitted.
Teslim Shitta-Bey, managing director of Proshare, amplified the call for pragmatic action, urging collaboration and innovation to emulate Sweden’s success.
He said “A smoke-free future isn’t a fantasy; it’s within reach. Let’s embrace THR and pave the way for easier breathing for millions.”
Research shows these alternative products can be 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes, offering smokers choices and a potential exit route. This not only eases healthcare costs but also substantially improves public health outcomes.
Nigeria’s path to a smoke-free future is clear. By learning from Sweden and embracing THR, the country can finally break free from the grip of tobacco and build a healthier tomorrow.