Malawi needs to initiate a harm reduction strategy to minimize medical care spending

One of the biggest buyers of Malawi tobacco, Phillip Morris International (PMI) has invented the IQOS — a smoke-free innovation that continues to attest that the modified risk-free tobacco product is less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.

Ngoma said the majority of people in Malawi are not conversant about vaping products because they are not on the open market yet, emphasizing that “these gadgets should be added to the country’s health regulations” so that they can be easily accessed for people who want to quit smoking but are failing to do so due to strong withdrawal effects.

“It’s a multi-sectoral stakeholder issue that should involve the health industry, civil society and the media because tobacco cigarette smoke is negatively affecting many people who do not smoke.”

Integra Africa Principal, Dr Tendai Mhizha

Ngoma, who has a PhD. Sociology, MA, Media Studies and an BSc. Agricultural Education, discouraged disinformation of such harm reduction products by authorities, civil society and the media — emphasizing that if people’s health is improved, the country can minimize on spending and work towards developing health care systems.

In her presentation, Dr. Vivianne Manyeki from Kenya said tobacco Harm Reduction has a solid scientific and medical basis, and it has a lot of promise as a public health measure to assist millions of smokers.

“Many smokers are unable, or at least unwilling, to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence,” she said.

“They continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences and against the multiple public health campaigns. 

“Conventional smoking cessation proposals should be complemented with alternative but more realistic options through Harm Reduction.”

Tobacco Harm Reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage caused by cigarette smoking — the most dangerous form of tobacco use, and the leading cause of preventable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

In his contribution, Dr. Kgosi Letlape — an ophthalmologist and president of Africa Medical Association and also president of the Association of Medical Councils of Africa — said: “Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking-related morbidity and mortality”. 

Ngoma attended the conference virtually

“Across the world, there is growing interest among experts in novel approaches towards tobacco control and there is an ongoing discussion that reducing the negative effects of smoking can also be achieved by tobacco harm reduction.”

Thus the media is encouraged to campaign the idea position that tobacco cessation is a key factor in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and cancer — that abstinence from tobacco smoking is one of the primary goals for health promotion and management globally but it is unachievable in a huge amount of cases. 

The task remains unaccomplished despite extensive public campaigns on the health dangers of tobacco smoking — thus, the development of novel strategies to reduce smoking is imperative.

Moreover, the use of innovations in smoking products has been currently adopted by several smokers to reduce the health risks of smoking.

Abdou Aziz Kasse. Photo credit: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernice Apondi, a policy manager at Voices of Community Action and Leadership Kenya (VOCAL-Kenya), said: “The Harm Reduction approach prevents drug-related deaths and overdose fatalities and is the only way out for addicts. 

“In the same way these alternative technologies can reduce tobacco harm and accelerate the journey to a smoke-free world as they reduce exposure to toxicants.”

This second Harm Reduction Exchange attracted journalists drawn from Southern, West and East African countries — Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria.

They debated and set forth several resolutions in regards to the present and future as well as the challenges and progress made in Harm Reduction, and science-led regulation.

It brought together high-level policy makers, physicians, scientists and health policy experts with media stakeholders from Africa in a lively mix of speeches, presentations, and panel discussions. 

The key note speakers included Prof Abdoul Aziz Kasse, Bernice Apondi, Joseph Magero, Jonathan Fell, Chimwemwe Ngoma, Clive Bates, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, Dr. Vivianne Manyeki and Dr. Tendai Mhizha.

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