Integra Africa – a non-governmental organization that champions the use of brand types to identify solutions for uniting the humanity – has urged journalists in African countries to assume an active role in accelerating the progress towards full uptake of harm reduction strategies in all spheres of health across the continent.
Speaking at the opening of the Third Edition of Harm Reduction Exchange 2023 Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, Integra Africa Principal, Dr. Tendai Mhizha, said with the advent of technology, dissemination of misinformation and disinformation has been a prevalent problem in promoting use of non-combustible products to reduce harm among smokers.
“Moving forward, there is a need to ensure that stakeholders are well informed with current and relevant information about the science, the changes that occur and how we can advance towards a smoke-free world,” said Mhizha, further emphasizing the need for the journalists and media houses to handle misinformation and disinformation in tobacco harm reduction discussions.
She disclosed that raising awareness for tobacco harm reduction (THR) as a public health strategy encourages adult smokers who are unable or uninterested in quitting tobacco altogether to migrate to noncombustible product alternatives.
“THR has the potential to bring about one of the greatest public health achievements of our time,” said Dr. Tendai.
On his part, Public Health Specialist and Secretary General of Harm Reduction Society in Kenya, Dr. Michael Kariuki, described harm reduction as the better path forward.
Kariuki said harm reduction allows regulators to provide adult smokers with information, choice and support to expand the off-ramp from smoking – while also continuing to drive down underage use.
“Providing adult smokers with less harmful alternatives to cigarettes is a powerful step in achieving this goal,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Harm Reduction Exchange (HRE) has indicated that several African countries have already implemented THR policies and programs, citing South Africa, which has legalized the sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products and Kenya, which has also taken steps to regulate THR products and is considering legalizing e-cigarettes.
The harmonization of public healthcare regulation of THR products in Africa would be a positive step towards reducing the harms associated with tobacco use. It would also signal that African governments are committed to public health and protecting their citizens from the dangers of tobacco smoke, said HRE in a statement released alongside the conference.