BY EVERSON MUSHAVA
Experts called on tobacco companies to develop safer solutions for people living in poor countries who make up the majority of smokers.
Speaking at the World Forum on Tobacco and Nicotine held virtually last week, experts also urged governments to embark on evidence-based policy making to reduce the number of smokers. in the world.
“I would like to use this platform to ask manufacturers to focus on developing safer solutions for people living in LMICs (low to middle income countries), will represent 80% of tobacco users globally,” and who would benefit most from the risk given that they only have the means to cope with the consequences of tobacco use, ”said Indian tobacco harm reduction expert Samrat Chowdhery.
Tobacco is the main source of income for southern African countries such as Zimbabwe and Malawi. The majority of agricultural workers in both countries smoke untreated tobacco, which has serious health consequences.
Laura Leigh Oyler, a regulator at an American company, said nicotine was, by and large, a drug poor people use primarily in the form of cigarettes and called for policies that deliberately marginalize and stigmatize smokers.
Experts noted that although the World Health Organization has promoted anti-smoking messages, research has actually shown that few smokers quit or switch to nicotine-free e-cigarettes.
But another tobacco harm reduction expert, James Glassman, said it was possible to get smokers to adopt less harmful practices and eventually quit smoking altogether.
“Certainly, new technologies aren’t the only way to end smoking,” Glassman said.
“Misinformation is as deadly for tobacco as it is for COVID-19. For businesses to play a greater role, they must show greater responsibility.
He added: “There is no greater global health challenge than the millions of deaths and billions of dollars wasted because of tobacco use. We can restart the fight. The best evidence is that around 70% of smokers say they want to quit, and they just can’t.
But Simon Clark, director of a smokers’ advocacy group, Forest, said a survey of more than 600 smokers by the Center for Substance Use Research in Glasgow found that 95% of those polled in a recent surveys identified pleasure as the main reason for smoking.
Many of those surveyed, 77% expected to smoke for many years, with only 5% considering a time in the near future when they could quit.
More than half of those surveyed, 59%, had used alternatives to the administration of nicotine such as electronic cigarettes. Few, however, were persuaded to switch from cigarettes to vaping for good.
South African physician Delon Human, who is used to working with British American Tobacco (BAT) on tobacco harm reduction, said there was “absolute consensus” that policies based on tobacco use on evidence was the way forward.
“We have just learned that the risk continuum is being confirmed and practiced within the FDA. And we hope in most of the other World Health Organization member countries, ”Human said.
Philip Morris International (PMI) vice president of global science engagement Gizelle Baker said that successful harm reduction requires adult smokers to have access to information and alternative products so that they can switch.
“When you have conflicting information, conflicting conclusions, an ever-changing pool of evidence coming out,” Baker said.
“Anything that generates uncertainty leads to a completely confused consumer base.
“And when you get confused, you drive in indecision, you drive in action and you ultimately get people to wonder what that means for these products and even more confused, what is it? mean to me? “
PMI, which has conducted extensive research on tobacco harm reduction, has produced a reduced-risk tobacco product, Iqos, which enables smokeless consumption.
“Well, at PMI we started to study this and we have a most recent study, a multinational study that was just done to look at how misinformation leads to misunderstandings? And we did it in the tobacco world, ”Baker said.
“So let’s look at the misunderstandings about risk. In this multi-country survey of 29,000 people, we found that over 45% mistakenly believed that smokeless products are just as or more harmful than cigarettes.
“And in fact, when we split it up, it was 45% for e-cigarettes 46% for heated tobacco products; almost 60% do not understand what causes smoking-related illnesses. “
Another expert, Will Godfrey, said there was a need to reduce the damage directly caused by some forms of drug use as well as that caused by bad drug policies.