Tobacco harm reduction advocates urge regulation based on evidence



  • In the ongoing global dialogue surrounding tobacco harm reduction and low-risk nicotine alternatives, the enthusiasts feel that regulations should prioritize public health and individual choice.

Tobacco Harm Reduction Uganda (THR-Uganda) enthusiasts are advocating for evidence-based policies on the regulation of tobacco use .

In the ongoing global dialogue surrounding tobacco harm reduction and low-risk nicotine alternatives, the enthusiasts feel that regulations should prioritize public health and individual choice.

Joel Sawa, the Team Leader for THR-Uganda stresses; “Despite regulatory challenges in Uganda, where current regulations unjustly restrict access to these products, we believe it is imperative to foster informed discussions that acknowledge the potential benefits of tobacco harm reduction strategies.”

He further notes that tobacco harm reduction encompasses a number of approaches aimed at reducing the adverse health effects associated with tobacco use, including smoking cessation and transitioning to safer nicotine

In December 2020, research by the School of Public Health Makerere on tobacco usage found that of the 50 percent young adults and adolescents at risk of tobacco exposure related diseases, 47 percent were exposed to tobacco smoke in public places such as restaurants, shops and other places in the past seven days.

This came after September 2015, where President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni assented to The Tobacco Control Act which prohibits smoking in public places, workplaces and means of public transport, and puts a penalty of a conviction to a fine not exceeding ten currency points or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five months, or both for a person who commits such an offence.

While all this enforcement of regulation is ongoing, Sawa notes that the harm is still ongoing , the enthusiasts feel public health harm can be frozen through alternative methods while the victims are equally helped.

Research from the United Kingdom in 2022 reveals that alternative nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), heated tobacco products, and nicotine pouches present significantly lower health risks compared to traditional combustible tobacco products.

The e-cigarettes in particular which work through releasing a cloud like vapour, an imitation of the tobacco puff give off no harmful substance to the environment. The research indicates that they are 95 percent safer than combustibles.

Through the research it was also noted that they have significantly contributed to less smoking and have had more people quit smoking than the combustible cigarettes hence contributing to lessening the disease burden .

However , for the case of Uganda through the Tobacco control Act 2015, such devices are banned. Rebecca Amoding , a fellow advocate at TRH- Uganda notes that with evidence based policies the public can be sensitised on such safe alternatives as these .

In addition, regulation would be found easier since it would cut down on the number of harmful methods tobacco using victims face in trying to quit or keep away from public exposure yet harming themselves.

Research from jurisdictions with evidence-based tobacco policies underscores the importance of harm reduction principles in tobacco control efforts. By adopting similar approaches, Uganda can mitigate the devastating impact of tobacco-related diseases while protecting the health of consumers through access to safer nicotine alternatives.

Exposure tobacco smoke can cause other diseases such as stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

While the World Health Organisation acknowledges the importance of alternative nicotine consumption methods , it leaves regulation of the products to countries themselves. It also can not go without mentioning that there is continual ongoing research on the alternative nicotine consumption products.

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