WHO and governments are accused of protecting and promoting combustible cigarettes 

A public health expert at the ongoing Third Edition of The Harm Reduction Exchange 2023 Conference in Nairobi, Kenya, has highlighted a ‘vested interest’ by World Health Organization (WHO) and governments as one of the impediments to interventions aimed at reducing harm from tobacco.

A South African public health activist, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, said contrary to its mandate to protect lives through regulation of health-related policies and guidelines, WHO has teamed up with governments around the world in protecting and promote the consumption of combustible cigarettes.

Dr Letlape (right) tackling harm reduction issues at the 3rd Edition of Harm Reduction Exchange 2023 Conference currently underway at Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu

During a panel discussion at the Third Edition of The Harm Reduction Exchange 2023 Conference on Thursday, Letlape revealed that WHO has never supported harm reduction interventions.

“Their excuse is that harm reduction is a ploy by the industry to hook young children onto tobacco and nicotine,” said Letlape, further criticizing governments for choosing to sacrifice the lives of their citizens by preferring to collect taxes from cigarette producers instead of devising mechanisms for reducing harm from smoking.

He said it was one of the reasons for the lack of availability of less harmful products on the markets as WHO and governments collide to promote cigarette producers.

In other countries, Dr. Letlape revealed again, cigarette producers provide direct funding to influential political parties thereby preventing them from making independent decisions on harm reduction interventions.

The Third Edition of The Harm Reduction Exchange 2023 was held under the theme: “Amplifying the Voice of Harm Reduction Advocacy across Africa”.

The conference has drawn participants from a number of African countries such as Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Botswana, Eswatini, and Kenya, as hosts, among others. 

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