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Adopting THR to mitigate smoking in Nigeria

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By Usman Oladimeji

THR offers safer alternatives to improve public health outcomes.

In Africa, the prevalence of tobacco consumption among the youth population has become a pressing public health issue with significant global implications. Countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ghana, which fall within the categories of high and middle-income nations, are actively implementing strategies to curb consumption and mitigate its associated health risks. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a large majority of users around the globe are found in Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. Despite the health risks associated with smoking, the number of users in these three nations continues to rise steadily.

WHO projects that in seven years time, the number of smokers in Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon will soar to 16,868,400, 1,697,800, and 7,631,000 respectively. Smoking has been associated with serious health issues like cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung problems, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), encompassing emphysema and chronic bronchitis. To address the rise in its use, countries are turning to Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) as a potential solution. This method provides a hopeful way to reduce the negative health effects linked to smoking tobacco.

Offering healthier alternatives that reduce the negative impact.

By embracing THR, Sweden has successfully reduced smoking rates after years of high prevalence of consumption, making it the European country with the lowest prevalence of tobacco use. THR focuses on reducing the harmful effects of these products and offering safer alternatives to improve public health outcomes related to consumption. As encouraging individuals to quit smoking has proven to be a difficult task with a low success rate, a more practical approach would be to offer healthier alternatives that reduce the negative impact on users compared to the detrimental effects of tobacco use on health.

Oral nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes are two popular alternatives outlined for those looking to avoid smoking. Nicotine pouches offer a convenient and discreet way to satisfy cravings without the need for smoke or combustion. Electronic cigarettes are a healthier alternative to tobacco, as they do not contain harmful substances like tar and carbon monoxide. Many smokers have successfully decreased their consumption by using these products, leading to a decrease in smoking-related illnesses and diseases. In an effort to reduce the negative impact of tobacco, top global manufacturing companies are developing alternative products that align with the principles of harm reduction.

Raising awareness on the harm reduction strategies.

Numerous strategies have been utilized thus far, including managing the distribution and authorization of products, implementing nicotine delivery systems, adjusting prices and taxes, educating the public, imposing strict regulations, prohibiting advertising and sponsorships, intervening in schools, using warning labels and plain packaging, raising cigarette prices to deter new users, involving the mass media in anti-smoking campaigns, implementing smoke-free policies, and limiting minors’ access to cigarettes. It is important to emphasize from the review that advocating for THR strategies is a more feasible approach to mitigating the health hazards linked to tobacco consumption.

To promote THR strategies in Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria, it is essential to focus on raising awareness and providing education about these strategies to the public, policymakers, and non-health ministries. Transparency is crucial in government interactions with the tobacco industry, which can be achieved through holding public policy advocacy meetings or making meeting minutes and reports easily accessible to the public. Improving the partnership between the public and government is crucial for enhancing surveillance, reporting, and enforcement systems.

Related Link: 26,800 Nigerians die annually from tobacco

Experts suggest turning to non-tobacco substitutes like e-cigarettes and oral nicotine products in order to lower smoking rates and diminish the overall health impacts. These innovative, tobacco-free options have emerged in the market over the past ten years and should be embraced for their safer and more contemporary nature. By adopting these products as THR methods, we can enhance public health outcomes and reduce the prevalence of tobacco-related diseases and deaths. These products are widely regarded as accessible, affordable, and effective options for reducing the harms of tobacco use.

Related Link

THRN: Website

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