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Nigeria Urged to Follow Sweden’s Lead in Tobacco Harm Reduction

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Stakeholders in Nigeria are calling on the Federal Government to adopt Sweden’s successful tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies and implement effective policies to achieve a smoke-free society. This plea was made at the ValueFronteira Limited roundtable discussion on THR in Nigeria, held in Lagos, focusing on the impact of harm reduction strategies on smoking cessation.

According to a report by The Guardian, Prof. Nnanyelugo Ike-Muonso, President of ValueFronteira Limited, emphasized Sweden’s remarkable achievement in reducing its smoking rate from 15% in 2008 to 5.6% in 2023. He suggested that Nigeria could significantly benefit from Sweden’s approach, which relies on promoting safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, like smokeless tobacco products and nicotine-based, tobacco-free alternatives.

Adopting these strategies, Ike-Muonso argued, is not only a choice but a responsibility the government owes to its citizens and future generations. He highlighted that such an approach aligns with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, focusing on supply, demand, and harm reduction strategies.

Chief Economist and Managing Editor of Proshare, Mr. Teslim Shitta-Bey, pointed out the global health crisis posed by tobacco smoking, with WHO predicting tobacco-related deaths to rise to 10 million by 2025. Beyond the health implications, the economic impact is equally significant, with substantial losses in healthcare and productivity, not to mention the environmental damage.

Shitta-Bey stressed that the Swedish model, emphasizing a shift to non-combustible risk-reduction tobacco alternatives, is crucial not only for public health but also for economic wellbeing. He underscored the need for Nigeria to revisit and enforce THR policies, launch public awareness campaigns, and ensure the affordability of harm-reduction products.

For Nigeria to mirror Sweden’s success, Shitta-Bey called for collaborative efforts between the government, policymakers, media, and healthcare professionals. He urged policymakers to classify THR products in the health category and consider reducing associated excise taxes.

Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Lagos, Prof. David Oke, echoed these sentiments, advocating for the design and enforcement of effective THR policies in Nigeria. He emphasized the importance of ensuring access to non-combustible tobacco alternatives and regulatory frameworks. Oke also mentioned that affordability could be a barrier to adoption, suggesting subsidies, tax incentives, and support for producing affordable harm-reduction products.

The roundtable discussion marks a significant step in Nigeria’s journey towards reducing smoking rates and establishing a smoke-free society, following the successful model established by Sweden.

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