Tobacco-dependent economies advised to quickly diversify away from leaf production or suffer disastrous consequences – The tobacco harm reduction campaign is unstoppable

United Kingdom (UK)-based sociologist and an avid advocate for tobacco harm reduction, Gerry Stimson, has advised African countries whose economies heavily depend on tobacco production to quickly diversify away from the industry.

Stimson gave the caution on Wednesday in response to a question from journalists who sought his opinion on African countries whose economies have, for decades, heavily relied on tobacco production.

Professor Gerry Stimson

The anti-smoking lobbyist was one of the presenters at the second Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) report launch, which was held in London.

The session was hosted under the banner: “Fighting the Last War”. It challenged the direction of travel of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) ahead of the forthcoming Conference of the Parties (COP 9).”

Stimson’s presentation was titled: “What we have learnt and what next for tobacco harm reduction.”

Stimson warned tobacco-dependent countries that any delays in moving away from the ‘green gold’ would have disastrous effects on their economies in no distant future from now.

Malawi tobacco auction floors

“I know there are some countries in African such as Malawi that heavily rely on tobacco production. But by now, Malawi should be thinking about agricultural transformation. The question these countries that depend on tobacco should be considering is: What does the future of tobacco production look like for them?” he emphasized.

Earlier in his presentation, Stimson vowed that the tobacco harm reduction campaign is unstoppable.

“Tobacco harm reduction is here to stay and is here for good. Tobacco harm reduction is good. Tobacco harm reduction is unstoppable. We believe that the longer it takes to reduce harm from tobacco; the more deaths and the more harm,” he said.

Stimson is a sociologist who has been promoting a harm reduction approach to public health since 1987, first related to drug use and later to alcohol and tobacco control Ethan Nadelmann – who is from the United States of America (USA), the founder of the Drug Policy Alliance, gave a presentation on ‘Under the influence – The politics of international drug control during which he stated the following: “If those who dominate the global tobacco control discourse were truly committed to public health imperatives, harm reduction principles and policies would be front and centre.

“This valuable report exposes the ways in which international institutions have turned their backs on scientific evidence and the human and political rights of hundreds of millions of people whose lives might be saved by safer nicotine products.”

While a Ukrainian health advocate, Natalia Toropova presented on ‘From tobacco control to harm reduction advocacy – A professional and personal journey.’

Toropova is a global health expert and International Adviser on health policy and public advocacy. Also a Policy and Strategy Specialist, Problem Solver and currently the Head of the Organization at Healthy Initiatives International Think Tank.

She said it is high time the global village agreed to prevent smoking related deaths.
Toropova said in Ukraine alone, 85,000 people die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases.

“There is no objective information about the effects of chain smoking. This is what real tobacco control should be about. Instead we have twisted facts about harmful tobacco products. Sadly, it’s no longer about saving lives, it’s purely attacking opposing parties. This reality should not be accepted,” she said.

However, Toropova stressed that smokers should not be stigmatized, but rather be offered caring assistance to enable them to quit smoking.

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