How We Can All Quit Smoking Like Sweden

By Soko Directory Team / Published March 16, 2023 | 10:01 am




KEY POINTS

Ostensibly, this is done to minimize the harm caused by tobacco in Kenya, where smoking rates remain stubbornly high at 20.8% of adult men – and 11.8% overall – despite strict measures including the prohibition of smoking in public places and mandatory health warnings on packaging.


Nicotine

Kenyans risk being denied the benefits of a major public health breakthrough that could help to save millions of lives across the globe.

Sweden is celebrating its imminent status as the first nation in the world to officially give up cigarettes, under guidelines that consider a country ‘smoke-free’ when less than 5% of its adult population smokes tobacco.

A report unveiled in Stockholm on March 14 revealed how Swedish policymakers have achieved this remarkable feat by embracing tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies that include giving smokers affordable access to alternative nicotine products such as vapes and nicotine pouches.

In the report The Swedish Experience: A roadmap to a smoke-free society, international THR experts explained how the Swedish success story has laid out a policy roadmap that, if followed by other nations, could save up to 3.5 million lives in Europe alone over the next 10 years.

They warned, however, that countries not embracing THR strategies are heading in the opposite direction by treating alternative nicotine products the same as traditional combustible cigarettes.

The Kenyan Government’s classification of vapes and pouches as tobacco products subject them to the same high taxes and marketing restrictions that apply to far more harmful cigarettes.

Ostensibly, this is done to minimize the harm caused by tobacco in Kenya, where smoking rates remain stubbornly high at 20.8% of adult men – and 11.8% overall – despite strict measures including the prohibition of smoking in public places and mandatory health warnings on packaging.

But this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to tobacco control ignores the fact that alternative nicotine products are very different from traditional tobacco products. As such, alternative products ought to be regulated uniquely within a framework that recognizes their intrinsic potential to reduce the harm associated with traditional tobacco products. This manner of regulation is precedented in Europe, the United Kingdom, and other jurisdictions.

Vapes and pouches do not burn tobacco, thereby dramatically reducing exposure to disease-causing chemicals, and thus saving lives. Global research shows that tobacco-free nicotine products are about 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

For this reason, countries like Sweden have embraced THR strategies to reduce smoking rates. Fifty years ago, 49% of Swedish men were smoking regularly. In the last decade, smoking rates in Sweden halved and reached a record low of 5.6% in 2022.

By supporting smoke-free alternatives such as snus and, in recent years, pouches and vapes, Sweden’s pragmatic, enlightened approach has delivered sensational public health gains.

Compared to the rest of Europe, Sweden has 44% fewer tobacco-related deaths, a cancer rate that is 41% lower, and 38% fewer deaths attributable to any cancer.

Here in Kenya, we are on course to miss our Health Ministry’s target of 9.7% smoking prevalence by 2025. Meanwhile, anti-tobacco advocates have lobbied Parliament to treat tobacco and nicotine as one and the same, and they continue to call for a total ban on less risky products such as nicotine pouches.

Kenyans deserve better. Restricting access or imposing ‘sin’ taxes on these potentially lifesaving products infringes on fundamental human rights and limits consumers’ freedom of choice.

Instead, an excise system that is tiered according to the relative risks of the products could be a game-changer by encouraging tobacco users to consider safer options.

Moreover, prohibiting the promotion of alternative nicotine products denies consumers access to information about safer options.

The ‘Swedish Model’ is an example of THR being practically used to drive down smoking rates and significantly reduce smoking-related diseases.

Kenya can emulate this success story if policymakers consider the needs of the consumer and adopt THR as the lifesaving strategy it has proved to be elsewhere.

Related Content: African Medics Call On WHO To Rethink And Prevent Smoking Deaths

By Dr. Okanga Nashon




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

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