Experts call on Ramaphosa to adopt Sweden’s anti-smoking pass at Presidential Health Summit

Health experts are calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to adopt a smoke-free stance in South Africa, much like Sweden’s model.

The Africa Harm Reduction Alliance said Sweden’s approach combines tobacco control methods with harm minimisation strategies, such as the use of vapes and nicotine pouches.

AHRA’s Dr Delon Human said, according to the report, 3.5 million lives could be saved in the next decade if other EU countries adopt similar measures.

The alliance urged Ramaphosa to secure a smoke-free country to save the lives of millions of cigarette smokers.

‘’Sweden’s success story should be celebrated as a public health revolution. We should all be on the mountaintop shouting ‘Victory!’, and looking at Sweden as the best-case practice,’’ said Human.

He explained that the SA should be following the Swedes’ model of harm reduction and the Summit is the ideal place to start.

Human said Sweden is set to drop below a 5% tobacco smoking prevalence rate in the next few months.

‘’This is the level at which a country is considered officially smoke-free. No other member of the European Union is close to matching Sweden’s achievement, and none is even on track to do so by the EU’s target of 2040 in 17 years. South Africa lags even further behind with a smoking rate approximately five times higher than Sweden’s, a seminar held by the AHRA in Johannesburg heard,’’ he added.

AHRA said Sweden’s innovative strategy to minimise the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and save lives is detailed in a new report entitled The Swedish Experience: A roadmap for a smoke-free society, which was co-authored by Dr Human and presented at last Friday’s seminar.

‘’The Swedish way is all about saving lives and about the quality of life for smokers who’ve been unable to quit. Harm reduction is their way out; it’s their fire escape,’’ Human said.

Sweden’s smoking rates just 15 years ago were more than 150% higher than they are today. It now has the lowest percentage of tobacco-related diseases in the EU and a 41% lower incidence of cancer than other European countries.

Human added that the seminar heard that the tobacco control bill currently before Parliament in South Africa could jeopardise hopes of Mzansi becoming smoke-free any time soon.

Global health consultant and president and founder of Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, Dr Derek Yach, warned against proposals in the bill that would regulate harm-reduction products, such as vapes and nicotine pouches, the same as combustible cigarettes.

‘’Standing back and going along with equalisation of the harm reduction category versus the combustible category will set us back. A review in a few years will show that we have actually forgone the opportunity to save many, many lives,’’ Yach said.

AHRA president, Dr Kgosi Letlape, said for adult smokers switching to non-combustible alternatives is highly recommended.

‘’Where governments have allowed these alternatives into their environment, the use of combustible cigarettes has come down, and health benefits have been derived,’’ Letlape said.

Article by Se-Anne Rall

Source: IOL

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