Journalists attending a two-day workshop in Naivasha have resolved form of a network of East and Southern Africa reporters to champion efforts of reducing tobacco harm. This network will initially be Chaired by Barnabas Thondhlana, (a Zimbabwean reporter with African Independent in South Africa and African Leadership Magazine in UK), with David Ohito ( a Kenyan based Digital Media consultant as coordinator).
They also called for major investments in alternative products that adult smokers will find satisfying but offer less risk than cigarettes.
Other resolutions attended by journalists from 14 African countries included re-tooling health reporters to discourage youths from smoking cigarettes and offering of opportunities to smokers to learn about and use these potentially less harmful alternatives.
Tobacco companies were also asked to consider offering a diverse portfolio of potentially less harmful products to switch smokers faster while having a positive impact on public health.
The conference was organised by key stakeholders in the tobacco industry in a push to provide a new frontier to a smoke free world.
The journalists in attendance were drawn from Southern, West and East African countries including Nigeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
They discussed how new technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world.
The conference, themed “Tobacco harm reduction: Towards a smoke free world” identified the urgent need to quickly adopt and promote reduced-risk alternatives aimed at accelerating the transition out of harmful tar-based cigarettes.
The conference provided the stakeholders with an opportunity to engage in open conversation and debate about the future of the industry and how tobacco companies can embrace technology and innovations to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 3 on good health and wellbeing by offering practical smoke-free alternatives to smokers.
Ade Adeyami, Founder and President, Leadership Impact Dynamics, told the conference that alternatives to cigarette smoking can create a big impact on health in society.
“Given the undisputed harm caused by cigarettes on human health, the potential negative impacts of e-cigarettes are certainly pale by comparison as there is no tar in e-cigarettes. Stakeholders in the industry must offer alternative products as an important smoking cessation tool. We believe we can have a big impact on public health by promoting alternatives to smoking cigarettes”, added Mr. Ade Adeyami.
On her part, Dr Tendai Kadenhe Mhizha, Continental lecturer and a permanent member of the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria faculty, said that society expects tobacco industry players to act responsibly and by having such a conference, some players are providing a primary roadmap to a smoke-free future.
“The tobacco industry understands the millions of men and women who smoke cigarettes are looking for less harmful, yet satisfying, alternatives to smoking. E-cigarettes don’t contain tar that is harmful to many humans, but still offers the rituals of smoking that consumers have become accustomed to and value,” she added.
A new generation of alternative tobacco products could offer a breakthrough for harm reduction, appealing to smokers, in a time where current anti-smoking campaigns are considerably not cutting through.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over a billion people currently smoke cigarettes, and this number is projected to remain largely unchanged by 2025. Globally 7 million people die from tobacco annually despite the efforts of the anti- tobacco agencies and world-wide anti-smoking campaigns.
The key guests were Debo Adesina (The Guardian Nigerian Editor-in-Chief); Daniel Kalinaki (Managing Editor, Regional Content, Nation Media Group), Dr Tendai Kadenhe Mhizha (Continental lecturer and a permanent member of the Gordon Institute of Business Science, University of Pretoria (GIBS faculty), Magesha Ngwiri (Media Consultant) and Aliou Goloko (Secretary General –REJOiNT (A reporter’s network specialized on monitoring the tobacco and nicotine industry).