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World Vape Day: Global alignment on health policy is necessary to make a smokeless Nigeria a reality

World Vape Day: Global alignment on health policy is necessary to make a smokeless Nigeria a reality

By Dr Akinwande Puddicombe

With renewed attention to smoking and vaping regulations around the world, now is the time for action to realise Nigeria’s smoke-free ambitions. Achieving this vision requires a collective consensus on an effective approach to creating sustained and lasting changes to consumer behaviour: tobacco harm reduction (THR).

THR represents one of the greatest public health opportunities today, providing a pathway for millions of smokers who would not otherwise quit to transition from combustible tobacco products to smokeless alternatives. Countries that have recognised the opportunity THR presents and adopted supportive policies have seen striking success in reducing their smoking rates. The US, UK, and Japan are witnessing their lowest smoking rates on record, while Sweden is on track to declare itself smoke-free this year—defined as having fewer than 5% of daily smokers in the population—16 years ahead of the 2040 EU target.

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These remarkable transformations have been driven by widespread THR acceptance from policymakers, regulators, health officials, and consumers, enabling and encouraging smokers to migrate from combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes to vapour, oral nicotine pouches, snus, and heated tobacco or herbal products. However, widespread accessibility of these alternative products is essential for the success of THR. At present, this is being hamstrung by Nigeria’s limited access to these alternative tobacco and nicotine products.

To fully realise the public health potential of THR, regulators in Nigeria should embrace evidence-based science to drive positive public health outcomes. This means implementing a supportive regulatory framework that encourages adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch while protecting consumers with the right safety standards and preventing underage access.

The success of THR in Nigeria also depends on governments and regulators correcting persistent misperceptions that these alternative products are more harmful compared to cigarettes. These misperceptions are not only flawed but also have significant implications for public health by actively discouraging smokers from making the switch to smokeless products.

Greater efforts are needed to counter these misperceptions, an area that BAT is trying to tackle. As the world’s largest vapour company and a leader in smoking alternative products, BAT is committed to producing innovative products backed by world-class science and industry-leading product safety and quality standards. The company’s THR approach is based on a growing body of research and a weight-of-evidence approach that substantiates our belief in the reduced risk profile of these products compared to cigarettes, which have been accepted by many international public health bodies. BAT publishes its science research to increase understanding of THR and raise awareness with stakeholders.

Read also: Nigeria investigation obsession: Chasing smoke while citizens bleed

Indeed, the industry developing and producing these products has a critical role to play. But to achieve the conditions required to make THR a success, an inclusive, open, and honest dialogue with all stakeholders is required. That includes policymakers, regulators, and the healthcare and medical communities. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case, with the industry all too often excluded.

There is an opportunity to usher in a new smokeless world, grounded in scientific research and a firm commitment to public health. The solutions are available today. All that is required is for the relevant stakeholders to actively work together to prioritise THR and the well-being of millions of people worldwide.

 

Akinwande Puddicombe is BAT, West & Central Africa’s Scientific Engagement Manager.