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World Vaping Day: Scientist Calls for Evidence-based Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategies

A scientific engagement Manager at the British American Tobacco West & Central Africa, Dr Akinwande Puddicombe, has called for evidence-based Tobacco Harm Reduction strategies to combat smoking in Nigeria.

The advocate for public health stressed the urgent need for collective action to realise Nigeria’s aspirations for a smoke-free future.

Puddicombe in a statement made available to our correspondent in commemoration of World Vape Day, emphasised the crucial role of evidence-based policies in fostering consumer behavior change while ensuring safety standards are upheld.

The World Vape Day is celebrated every May 30 to raise awareness about the potential benefits of vaping as a harm reduction tool for smokers.

The scientist, however, stressed the importance of dispelling misconceptions surrounding the safety of alternative tobacco products compared to traditional cigarettes, advocating for greater public awareness and education.

Citing successful THR initiatives in countries like the US, UK, and Japan, Puddicombe underscored the potential of smokeless alternatives in reducing smoking rates.

Despite Nigeria’s challenges in accessing smokeless alternatives, the scientist said he remains optimistic about the country’s potential to embrace THR.

He added that BAT is committed to producing innovative, scientifically validated products, acknowledging the industry’s responsibility in advancing THR.

The scientist stressed the need for inclusive dialogue with policymakers and healthcare professionals to drive meaningful change.

While urging stakeholders to prioritise THR as a means to improve public health outcomes in Nigeria and beyond, Puddicombe said there is a need for collaborative efforts to achieve a smoke-free future.

He added, “With renewed attention to smoking and vaping regulations around the world, now is the time for action to realise Nigeria’s smoke-free ambitions. Achieving this vision requires a collective consensus on an effective approach to creating sustained and lasting changes to consumer behaviour – Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR).

“THR represents one of the greatest public health opportunities today, providing a pathway for millions of smokers who would not otherwise quit, to transition from combustible tobacco products to smokeless alternatives.

“Countries that have recognised the opportunity THR presents and adopted supportive policies have seen striking success in reducing their smoking rates. The US, UK, and Japan are witnessing their lowest smoking rates on record, while Sweden is on track to declare itself smoke-free this year – defined as having fewer than 5 per cent of daily smokers in the population – 16 years ahead of the 2040 EU target.

“These remarkable transformations have been driven by widespread THR acceptance from policymakers, regulators, health officials, and consumers, enabling and encouraging smokers to migrate from combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes to vapour, oral nicotine pouches, snus, and heated tobacco or herbal products.

“To fully realise the public health potential of THR, regulators in Nigeria should embrace evidence-based science to drive positive public health outcomes.

“This means implementing a supportive regulatory framework that encourages adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke, to switch, while protecting consumers with the right safety standards and preventing underage access.”

On the role of government, Puddicombe stated, “The success of THR in Nigeria also depends on governments and regulators correcting persistent misperceptions that these alternative products are more harmful compared to cigarettes.

“These misperceptions are not only flawed but also have significant implications for public health by actively discouraging smokers from making the switch to smokeless products.

“Greater efforts are needed to counter these misperceptions – an area that BAT is trying to tackle. As the world’s largest vapour company and a leader in smoking alternative products, BAT is committed to producing innovative products backed by world-class science and industry-leading product safety and quality standards.

“The Company’s THR approach is based on a growing body of research and a weight-of-evidence approach that substantiates our belief in the reduced risk profile of these products compared to cigarettes, which have been accepted by many international public health bodies.

“BAT publishes its science research to increase understanding of THR and raise awareness with stakeholders.

Indeed, the industry developing and producing these products has a critical role to play. But to achieve the conditions required to make a success of THR, an inclusive, open, and honest dialogue with all stakeholders is required. That includes policymakers, regulators, and the healthcare and medical communities. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case, with the industry all too often excluded.

“There is an opportunity to usher in a new smokeless world, grounded in scientific research and a firm commitment to public health. The solutions are available today. All that is required is for the relevant stakeholders to actively work together to prioritise THR and the well-being of millions of people worldwide.”

SOURCE: HealthWise