At least eight million people die from smoking annually surpassing obesity, alcohol, road accidents, drug misuse and HIV combined, an international health expert Dr. Clive Bates has disclosed.
Bates has since called upon tobacco-growing countries like Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to prioritise public health policies in their decision-making processes.
He made the sentiments during an informative session on science and harm.
“Don’t lose sight of the public health agenda,” said Dr. Clive Bates who is the Director of Counterfactual Consulting – an international consulting and advocacy practice focusing on sustainability and public health.
Bates said smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes. He added that while e-cigarettes are not without health risks, they are likely to be far less harmful than combustible tobacco cigarettes.
In Africa, the expert said South Africa tops on the smoking prevalence (age 15 and over), adding that while there will be a declining prevalence, but increasing population will increase African share.
He further stated that although it is not possible to precisely quantify the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed five percent of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure.
“But harms are associated with the delivery system, not the drug,” he said. “People smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.”
Meanwhile, experts have called upon tobacco-producing countries to balance between economic and public health concerns, stressing that this is key to ensuring that Malawi continues to benefit from tobacco exports without sacrificing the health of its people.
During the same virtual information session on science and harm reduction for African journalists, South African-based advocate for harm reduction and a medical doctor, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, urged Malawian delegates at the FCTC to be vigilant and advocate for public health policies that align with the nation’s needs.
“Malawian delegates at the FCTC need to be vigilant and stand up for public health policies they need and would work in Malawi. Many African countries have the tendency to go with the flow, especially on issues brought to the table by the WHO. They rarely question the WHO. Malawi’s ratification is a good move for it to advocate for Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategies that may save its people from nicotine addiction. There are many misconceptions regarding THR but governments need to use scientific evidence and not myths,” said Letlape.[END]