Cigarette manufacturers may need to change tact if the push by industry players to promote alternative products such as electronic cigarettes to reduce the harm caused by tobacco-smoking succeeds.
Industry stakeholders say a new generation of alternative tobacco products could offer a breakthrough in harm reduction, appealing to smokers at a time when anti-smoking campaigns are not cutting through.
Leadership Impact Dynamics founder Ade Adeyam said stakeholders in the industry must offer alternative products as a tool to help stop smoking.
“We believe we can have a big impact on public health by promoting alternatives to smoking cigarettes,” said Ms Adeyami. “Given the undisputed harm caused by cigarettes on human health, the potential negative impacts of e-cigarettes certainly pale by comparison as there is no tar in e-cigarettes.” Ms Adeyami was speaking during the Tobacco Harm Reduction: Towards a Smoke Free World conference in Naivasha last week.
The conference, which had representations from 14 African countries, sought to identify ways to adopt and promote reduced-risk alternatives aimed at accelerating the transition out of harmful tar-based cigarettes while tackling the Sustainable Development Goal on good health and wellbeing.
Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over a billion people smoke cigarettes, and this number is projected to remain largely unchanged by 2025.
Out of this, nearly 31,000 Kenyans aged 30 and above and about seven million people globally die from effects of tobacco every year. This makes tobacco use one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, according to WHO.
Dr Tendai Kadenhe Mhizha, a lecturer at the University of Pretoria, said e-cigarettes do not contain tar that is harmful to many humans, but still offers rituals of smoking that consumers have become accustomed to and value.