AFRICAN governments have been implored to adopt new strategies to reduce public health threats caused by tobacco as eight million deaths are recorded every year.
Health experts, who converged in Nairobi, Kenya, last week at the second edition of the Harm Reduction Exchange, noted that the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.
The panel of experts included Abdoul Kassé, an oncologist at Senegal’s Cancer Institute; Tendai Mhizha, chief executive officer of Integra Africa; Vivian Manyeki, Letlape Kgosi, Bernice Apondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma and Clive Bates.
The experts revealed that all forms of tobacco were harmful where cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco use worldwide.
Kassé said there was a need for African governments, industry and other stakeholders to balance the interests of the industry and the health of the people.
“The use of electronic cigarettes, nicotine patches and chewing gums have continued to generate a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and the media but there is evidence that the use of less harmful products such as nicotine e-cigarettes may be a solution,” he said.
Mhizha challenged the media to reach out to society, influence behavioural change and direct society towards using less harmful products in place of tobacco.
Apondi gave a case study of Kenya saying harm reduction started as a civil society issue but the government has since started participating.
She said the Kenyan government opened more than 15 000 centres that help people using drugs and other harmful tobacco products.
According to statistics, tobacco kills more than 14 000 people worldwide everyday and more than eight million per year. It is claimed that seven million of these deaths are direct tobacco users while 1,2 million were passive smokers.