Medics ask government to embrace e-cigarettes

Kenyan and other African medics have issued an urgent call through the African Harm Reduction Alliance (AHRA) to allow safer alternatives to smoking.

In a statement, they called upon international delegates attending the World Health Organisation’s ninth conference on tobacco control, to move to prevent the deaths of millions of smokers by supporting safer alternatives.

AHRA’s CEO, Dr. Delon Human, said “Scientific evidence shows that vaping and nicotine pouches are much less harmful than cigarettes and they can offer smokers their best chance of quitting a lethal habit.

Named by Kenya’s Ministry of Health as the country’s top cause of preventable deaths in 2017, smoking is causing over 8,000 deaths a year, with 18,000 children and 2.1 million adults using tobacco every day, generating healthcare and economic costs of almost KSh3 billion a year, according to the atlas.

The Kenyan appeal comes in support of a letter written by 100 independent experts in tobacco and nicotine science and policy to delegates due to attend the WHO’s tobacco summit.

The group has called on the WHO to modernize its approach to safer alternatives, such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches, and incorporate effective tobacco harm reduction into the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Speaking at a joint webinar with Campaign for Safer Alternatives, AHRA noted that public health policies should acknowledge that these potential lifesavers would have a hugely positive impact in low- and middle-income countries, where 90 percent of deaths for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) occur.

President of AHRA, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, said “AHRA is urging COP9 delegates and the WHO to pay particular consideration to the plight of Africa, where smoking rates are stagnating or increasing in defiance of global trends.

“Smokers on the continent are desperate for safer alternatives, which are being over-regulated or over-taxed out of their reach. The real issue is the combustion of tobacco, which causes most of the harm. We need evidence-based decision-making and believe the adoption of harm reduction policies and (non-combustible) products in Africa would help prevent 146,000 tobacco-related deaths every year.”

An e-cigarette, also known as e-cig, e-cigar or vape pen, is a long tube that usually resembles a cigarette, pen or pipe. E-cigs have a mouthpiece, a heating element, a rechargeable battery and electronic circuits.

The e-cig is a battery-operated device that emits doses of vaporized nicotine, or non-nicotine solutions, for the user to inhale. It aims to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke without the smoke.

As the user sucks on the mouthpiece, a sensor activates a heating element that vaporises a flavored, liquid solution held in the mouthpiece. The person then inhales the aerosol, commonly known as vaping.

The solution is also known as e-liquid or e-juice, and it is made by extracting nicotine from tobacco and mixing it with a base and flavouring.

Kenya has no clear policy to regulate or guide the use, sale and consumption of e-cigarettes.

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