According to the World Health Organization (WHO), statistics showed that Nigeria has about 12 million adult smokers. Discussions are ongoing all over the world and Nigeria cannot afford to be left out in this all important discussion for a smoke free world.
Nigeria enacted the National Tobacco Control Act (NTCA Act) 2015 to accommodate the provisions of the WHO FCTC. The key highlights of the law are the prohibition of smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars, public transportation, schools, and hospitals.
Are the adult smokers in Nigeria ready to quit smoking? If not, are they ready to switch to alternatives like free- smoke products?
Stakeholders at the event have called for collective efforts to accelerate the journey to a smoke-free future. At Technovation, there were media representatives from nearly 30 countries convened to hear presentations and engage in discussions about the roles that the industry, civil society, governments, and the public community play in achieving a smoke-free future at a faster pace.
What is universally accepted is that smoking causes serious disease and is addictive, it is estimated that about 1 billion people will still continue to smoke in 2025.
Over the years, advances in science, technology, and regulation have enabled society to reduce the adverse effects of continuing potentially harmful behavior. This is known as harm reduction. The main cause of harm from smoking is primarily linked to the high levels of harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke produced by burning tobacco. By eliminating burning, as is the case with smokefree products, the levels of harmful chemicals can be significantly reduced compared with cigarette smoke.
By providing adult smokers with access to, and information about, better smoke-free alternatives, we can reduce smoking prevalence globally faster than if we continue with the status quo.
Senior Vice President of External Affairs at Philip Morris International (PMI), Grégoire Verdeaux, said in an interview that the governments cannot achieve the goal of a smoke-free world without the involvement of the industry players.
According to Verdeaux, involving industry players in formulating laws that will help in their efforts aimed at eliminating smoking is what the government should be considering since prohibitions do not seem to work.
Verdeaux said about the generational ban in some countries that these laws are intended to prevent people born after a certain date from buying cigarettes, but not those born before that date. Shouldn’t those who can continue buying cigarettes be encouraged to choose a better alternative if they don’t quit?
He argued that the real discussion is about what we do for people that are already smoking. He continued: “If we take the example of Nigeria the country is a very big one, the smoking prevalence is below 3%. But even if we take that number, we’re talking about 12 million people. We are still talking about a large number of people.”
On what the company is doing internationally, Verdeaux said they are looking for alignment between the company, the industry, and the government in elaborating the regulations of these new tobacco and nicotine containing product that do not combust.
“Tobacco companies didn’t always have a history of alignment with governments and public health authorities. We believe that the transformation that our company is undertaking now is changing things quite structurally. The purpose of my role is really to create that room for alignment. In this journey, some people still start to smoke cigarettes and others keep smoking cigarettes and don’t quit. Then the alignment must be to determine what to do with them. What smoke-free alternatives can we propose to them?”, Verdeaux said while advocating for the involvement of industry players who are intensively investing in Research and Development of alternatives that are potentially less harmful than combustible cigarettes.
“Having a level of interaction between industry players in a regulated market and the governments is absolutely normal. We are trying to provide them with data from our markets and also evidence and facts that are not coming from us, but from regulators, scientific surveys, public hospitals, data that are not necessarily ours. We are a private company, we can do whatever we can to try to address market needs, but it’s going to be much more efficient and much faster if it’s addressed by a government policy”, Verdeaux added.
Verdeaux echoed PMI CEO, Jacek Olczak also in attendance at Techovation, who urged all stakeholders to objectively assess the facts that support the implementation of policies promoting access to non-combustible alternatives for adult smokers.
“It is no longer a case of if smoke-free alternatives are better than cigarette smoking; it is a case of by how much,” said Olczak. “Based on WHO and other third-party data, our hypothetical model shows that if smoke-free products are assumed to be 80% less risky than cigarettes—and if people who currently smoke were to switch to them completely—then over their lifetime, there’s a potential for a tenfold reduction in smoking-attributable deaths compared with historical tobacco control measures alone. While this type of hypothetical estimate has limitations, it begins to show the cost of inaction. It’s time to work toward a common goal of delivering effective policies that make cigarettes a historical artifact—a museum piece collecting dust behind glass cases.”