A leading expert in tobacco harm reduction, Samrat Chowdhery, today stated that nicotine alternative products could help to wipe out the disease burden from smoking across the continent if Governments were willing to embrace them.
Mr. Chowdhery is President of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO), and was the guest speaker this morning at a webinar co-hosted by the Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA) and the Africa Tobacco Harm Reduction Forum (ATHRF).
The webinar discussed the role that nicotine alternatives can play in reducing smoking-related disease and mortality, especially in low and middle-income countries.
“Over one billion people smoke or use tobacco products. You cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach to help people quit. Why not expand the ways of reducing harm with safer nicotine products?”, queried Mr. Chowdhery.
The INNCO president went on to explain that, “There are some people in Africa who are unable to quit and find themselves returning to cigarettes, and there are some people who don’t want to quit – changing to safer alternatives for these people can be lifesaving.”
“Nicotine itself is not hurting people, it is the way it is being consumed” continued Mr Chowdhery. “If you remove the burning of the tobacco then you remove the majority of the harm. Indeed, nicotine’s role in smoking cessation is well established, with replacement therapies – such as patches and gum – widely available since the 1970s.”
In certain policy circles, however, the base assumption is that “only nicotine in its medical form can play a role in cessation” – hence some peoples’ resistance to modern forms of nicotine replacement, such as tobacco heated products, snus and tobacco-free pouches.
Contrary to this thinking, Mr Chowdhery argued that, “We now have products which are significantly safer, that can help reduce tobacco death and disease and we need Government and policymakers to adapt to this new reality.”
In Kenya for example, smoking rates have remained stagnant at 13% and are on the rise amongst young adults. Traditional tobacco control measures have become ineffective, and a new approach and is needed if Kenya is to succeed in lowering its smoking rates.
Joseph Magero, Chairman of CASA spoke about the importance of nicotine products remaining accessible and affordable if smokers are to make the switch.
“Everywhere that cigarettes are sold, so too should safer nicotine alternatives. Smokers need to constantly be given a choice and encouraged to move to safer products,” stated Joseph Magero.
In Mr. Chowdhery’s closing remarks he concluded that “whatever helps people quit cigarettes should be encouraged” and urged policymakers to remain open to tobacco harm reduction products.