President of ValueFronteira, Prof. Nnanyelugo Ik-Muonso (left); public health expert, Mrs. Imoleayo Oyekanmi and Dr. David Martin Oke of the Department of Economics, University of Lagos at a roundtable on Tobacco Harm Reduction in Lagos
By Edu Abade
Nigerians and the government at all levels have been urged to adopt Sweden’s model of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) to achieve a smoke-free future and safeguard the public health of citizens in the country.
Speaking at a roundtable organised by ValueFronteira in Lagos, public health experts lamented that Nigeria had been weighed down by 28,876 yearly deaths and crippling healthcare costs from smoking, and as such the country should navigate newfound hope in THR and replicate its path to a smoke-free future by taking a cue from Sweden’s stunning success.
A public health expert and President of ValueFronteira, Professor Nnanyelugo Ike-Muonso charged Nigerians and the government to adopt Sweden’s model in achieving a smoke-free country, maintaining that Europe’s champion low-smoking nation, with the world’s lowest lung cancer and cardiovascular disease rates depend much on embracing safer alternatives to cigarettes.
“This is a pivotal moment for Nigeria. If embraced and nurtured, THR could chart a healthier, smoke-free course for millions. Investing in it is not just about cigarettes, but also about saving lives, reducing healthcare burden and building a healthier future for generations,” Ike-Muonso said.
Consequently, participants at the roundtable recommended present an 8-point roadmap for immediate actions required for the successful implementation of THR policies in Nigeria.
The recommendations are: Immediate development of a comprehensive THR Policy Framework aligned with global best practices and tailored to Nigeria’s unique context.
Launch of extensive public awareness campaigns to educate citizens, healthcare professionals and policymakers about the benefits of THR.
They urged the Nigerian health authorities should forge partnerships with media outlets to disseminate accurate information and counteract misinformation regarding THR policies and strengthen knowledge about THR policies among healthcare professionals through targeted training programs and awareness initiatives.
Others are to work on policies and reduce excise duties on risk-reduction products that ensure affordability compared to traditional cigarettes, making them accessible to a broader population, and encourage research and development in THR, supporting innovations and advancements in less harmful alternatives.
They also advocated active collaboration with international organizations and countries successfully implementing THR policies to gain insights and support, as well as instituting robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of THR policies on a regular basis.
“We implore our policymakers to prioritize public health by embracing Tobacco harm-reduction alternatives, raising awareness among the general public, and making these harm-reduction products not only accessible but also affordable. The time to act is now, and we are ready to support and collaborate with the government in this critical journey toward a smoke-free Nigeria,” Ike-Muonso submitted.
On his part, Managing Director of Proshare, Teslim Shitta-Bey, who bemoaned the fact that over 8 million people die from tobacco-related ailments yearly worldwide, amplified the call for pragmatic action, urging collaboration and innovation to emulate Sweden’s success.
“A smoke-free future is not a fantasy; it is within reach. And so, let’s embrace THR and pave the way for easier breathing for millions of Nigerians.
“Research shows these alternative products can be 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes, offering smokers choices and a potential exit route. This not only eases healthcare costs but also substantially improves public health outcomes.
“Nigeria’s path to a smoke-free future is clear. By learning from Sweden and embracing THR, the country can finally break free from the grip of tobacco and build a healthier future,” he stated.