KENYA – According to a new consumer survey launched in Nairobi by Campaign for Safer Alternatives (CASA), the majority of smokers in Kenya want to use harm reduction products, such as nicotine pouches or vapes/e-cigarettes, to help them quit.

CASA hosted the conference, titled “Oral Nicotine Pouches: A Gateway to a Smoke-Free Africa?” in collaboration with the African Harm Reduction Alliance (AHRA).

The survey findings are based on responses from over 200 Kenyans to an online questionnaire. All respondents are currently using tobacco or have previously used tobacco or tobacco-free nicotine products.

Experts from the global medical community participated in the panel discussions, debating the effectiveness and risk profile of tobacco-free nicotine alternatives, as well as their role in reducing Kenyan smoking rates.

Campaign for Safer Alternatives is a pan-African non-governmental member organization dedicated to achieving 100% smoke-free environments in Africa.

Its main aim is to promote innovative solutions for tobacco-smoking cessation, while remaining committed to and supporting tobacco control efforts in Africa.

Cigarette smoking is a major cause of disease and the leading preventable cause of death. Besides, smoking is linked to a slew of non-fatal diseases and issues, such as osteoporosis, skin wrinkling, peptic ulcer disease, impotence, and pregnancy complications.

Even a small amount of smoking, such as one cigarette per day, is associated with increased health risks.

Quitting smoking

More than two-thirds of more than the 200 smokers and nicotine product users polled expressed a desire to quit smoking.

However, nearly three-quarters of those polled found nicotine pouches and vapes to be prohibitively expensive or difficult to obtain, preventing many from using their preferred method of quitting.

Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Nairobi gave a detailed presentation on the risks of tobacco-free nicotine products, which according to their data is significantly lower than other traditional tobacco and oral stimulants.

During the conference, Dr. Derek Yach, a leading global health advocate, also presented research on the opportunities to maximize the benefits of tobacco harm reduction and the effects of nicotine pouches on smoking rates around the world.

Clive Bates, a well-known anti-tobacco campaigner, and Aishat Alaran, a Board member of the Campaign for Safer Alternatives, also participated in the panel discussion on why Africa lags behind in terms of innovative technologies to reduce smoking rates and smoking-related diseases.

The experts expressed concern at the lack of support for alternative nicotine products in Kenya despite the scientific evidence showing that they do not expose users to the leading causes of smoking-related death.

Tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people worldwide each year, including 480,000 in the United States.

Non-toxic alternative

E-cigarettes give smokers the nicotine they need without the toxic tar and carcinogens that come with inhaling burning tobacco.

In countries such as Sweden, the high use of nicotine pouches is responsible for their low oral cancer and other cancers risk. These products are comparable in risk profile to traditional nicotine replacement therapies and expose users to far fewer toxicants than tobacco, kaht or gutka products,” commented Dr Michael Kariuki, lead researcher of the report.

However, regulators in Kenya, and other countries have not approved their marketing as smoking cessation aids.

Commenting on the report, CASA Chairman Joseph Magero said, “We need a regulatory system that ensures nicotine pouches and vapes/e-cigarettes remain affordable and accessible for adult smokers.

Instead of adopting a dogmatic, unscientific stance against tobacco-free alternatives, Kenya should be embracing it as an exciting opportunity to prevent smoking-related deaths,” he added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people worldwide each year, including 480,000 in the United States.

If current trends in tobacco use continue, the global death toll is expected to reach 8 million per year by 2030.

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