Kenyan medics have today issued an urgent call through the African Harm Reduction Alliance (AHRA) to international delegates attending the World Health Organisation’s 9th conference on tobacco control, this month, to move to prevent the deaths of millions of smokers by supporting safer alternatives.
The African call comes as the number of smokers has continues to rise in Africa and in Kenya, according to the Tobacco Atlas.
Named by Kenya’s Ministry of Health as the country’s top cause of preventable deaths in 2017, smoking is causing over 8,000 deaths a year, with 18,000 children and 2.1m adults using tobacco every day, and generating healthcare and economic costs of almost Sh3bn a year, according to the atlas. Yet Kenya has banned the safer alternatives that most smokers in developed countries have now moved to.
The Kenyan appeal comes in support of a letter written by 100 independent experts in tobacco and nicotine science and policy to delegates due to attend the WHO’s tobacco summit. The group has called on the WHO to modernise its approach to safer alternatives, such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, and incorporate effective tobacco harm reduction into the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
AHRA has today written its own letter in support of the group, joining the call for delegates to the FCTC’s Ninth Conference of Parties (COP9) to adopt a “questioning and assertive approach” to WHO’s tobacco policies and a WHO policy analysis that assesses scientifically the benefits and risks of smoke-free products.
Speaking at a joint webinar with Campaign for Safer Alternatives, AHRA’s CEO, Dr Delon Human, says: “Scientific evidence shows that vaping and nicotine pouches are much less harmful than cigarettes and they can offer smokers their best chance of quitting a lethal habit.
“Public health policies should acknowledge that these potential lifesavers would have a hugely positive impact in low- and middle-income countries, where 90% of deaths for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) occur.”