Global Study Of Regulations On Alternative Nicotine Products Use Finds Africa Lagging Behind
By Wallace Mawire
A comprehensive global stufy of regulations governing alterative nicotine product conducted in November 2022 has found African countries lagging woefully behind in the use of innovation to reduce deaths from smoking, according to Joseph Magero, Chairperson of the Campaign for Safe Alternatives (CASA) in Kenya.
Magero revealed this at the Harm Reduction Exchange 2022 meeting held in Nairobi,kenya on 30 November to 1 December 2022 under the theme:Making a diffrence in Africa.
CASA an organisation based in Kenya working with various stakeholders including policy makers to conscientise them on key issues affecting citizens like health has reported that it is very crucial for Africa to have a tobacco control policy built on scientific risk assessment and a comprehensible communication strategy.
Magero said that the three African countries studied are Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. He said that they all ended up in the bottom third of a ‘world league table’ comparing rules on tobacco harm reduction in areas including prohibitions, packaging, taxation and education.
He says that the authors of the report, compiled by the We Are Innovation Network, criticised health authorities for discouraging the use of alternative nicotine products, which the he said that the most up-to-date scientific evidence shows are the most effective method to abandon combusted tobacco and avoid almost all the smoking related health harms.
The network is reported by Magero to have concluded that disseminating technical information and combating misinformation, myths and distortions about non-combusted nicotine products and nicotine itself is a fundamental responsibility that all stakeholders, both public and private, must assume.
‘Sadly, too many policymakers in Africa align with activists by refusing to draw a distinction between tobacco and nicotine. Taxes on alternative nicotine products are so high that they are priced out of the reach of smokers whose lives they could save,’Magero said.
He said that for example, Kenya is currently subjecting alternative nicotine products to taxes that make them unaffordable for the millions who need them. The country’s Finance Act 2022 is reported to have raised excise duty on nicotine products by 25%, while changing the structure for e-cigarrettes and they are now subject to 40% tax,according to Magero.
‘Instead of these products being taxed according to their relative risk,smokers are being denied the opportunity or incentive to switch to safer options, they are forced to stick with traditional cigarettes, meaning tobacco’s immense burden on our public health increases,’Magero said.
Also according to him at the Kenya meeting, Magero said that in South Africa, the country’s Parliament was considering the Tobacco Control Bill, which for the first time would regulate e-cigarettes and other new generation products in much the same way as tobacco.
Magero said that despite mounting evidence that vaping is a viable smoking cessation tool, the South African Health Department has lumped it in the same category as tobacco products.
He said that this was a short-sighted move seeing that the Bill supposedly seeks to reduce the incidence of tobacco-related illness,disability and deaths.’It is likely the outcome will ultimately be the opposite,’Magero said.
His organization says that limited resources across the African continent mean many public health systems offer severely limited options or services to help smokers to quit. He said that often there is no toll-free quit line, no smoking cessation counselling services at hospitals and no smoking cessation clinics.
Magero adds that everyone in the debate from the politicians to the general public need to acknowledge that the major problem in tobacco is the combustion of tobacco. He said that there is vast amounts of scientific evidence that shows it is the combustion that is the problem, not the nicotine.
‘We need to need to use that evidence to re-educate the public and we need to create space for truthful information to be available so people can make informed decisions,’Magero said.
He added that to help smokers to quit cigarettes, the relative risk of nicotine products needs to be properly understood, acknowledged and communicated to adult smokers.
He said that this will enable individuals to be able to make informed choices and use nicotine wisely.