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Tobacco firms push shift to e-cigarettes amid bans

e-cigarettes
In the US, e-cigarettes have been legalised. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Tobacco companies are pushing back against bans on flavoured tobacco and e-cigarettes, which the industry is switching to as an alternative to combustible nicotine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the shift to the flavoured, sleek design products is a ploy to capture the younger generation market and in May started the ‘World no tobacco day’ campaign.

Meanwhile, the Global Forum on Nicotine in its seventh conference this year says move to e-cigarettes is an industry reform targeting the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide with safe nicotine products. GFN is an annual forum held to promote alternatives to smoking to cut tobacco-related deaths.

GFN is promoting use of vapes (e-cigarettes), Swedish snus, nicotine pouches and heated tobacco products as part of the industry’s tobacco harm reduction approach.

Regular cigarettes, sold in sticks, release nicotine, a highly addictive substance that causes feelings of temporary relaxation and stress relief when inhaled, through the burning of tobacco.

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E-cigarettes, on the other hand, comprises of handheld electronic devices that heat a liquid containing nicotine into a vapour that people inhale.

“Smoking is the single biggest cause of non-communicable disease (NCD). It kills half of all those who smoke,” GFN said.

The Global Burden of Disease study estimates that smoking directly accounted for 7.1 million premature deaths in 2017, with an additional 1.2 million deaths attributed to second-hand smoke.

Compared to regular cigarettes, whose health effects have been studied extensively over many years, studies on the impacts of e-cigarettes are still limited as it is only recently that the products gained popularity.

While some smokers have been able to quit, those who cannot are at a huge health risk, GFN says when they continue to use combustible tobacco.

The lobby says where available and affordable, safer nicotine products such as vapes and snus give smokers more options.

But health experts warn that all tobacco products are harmful and dissuade people from using them.

Globally tobacco control efforts led by international agencies such as the WHO have lowered smoking rates.

However, 80 percent of the world’s smokers live in low and middle income countries, least able to implement tobacco control measures and whose healthcare systems are unable to cope with the disease burden of smoking.

E-cigarettes are banned in countries such as India, Brazil, Uruguay and Singapore.

-Additional reporting by Sarah Ooko


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