Towards providing smoke-free environment
• iQos e-cigarette safer for smokers, reduces harm
Tobacco epidemic has been identified as one of the biggest public health threats and the leading cause of preventable death, illness and impoverishment in the world.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over seven million people die each year from the effects of tobacco.
It further estimated that over six million of those deaths results from the direct use of tobacco, while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. This number, WHO said, is expected to increase to eight million by 2030 if current trends continue.
Second-hand smoke is the smoke that fills restaurants, offices or other enclosed spaces when people burn tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis and water pipes.
The Center for disease control and prevention (CDC) opined that tobacco smoking causes over 480,000 deaths each year, nearly one in five deaths.
Tobacco smoking have been associated with many health conditions and according to the CDC, it causes more deaths each year than the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries and firearm-related incidents.
In Nigeria, WHO estimated that about 5.6 percent of adults and 15.4 percent of youths currently use tobacco as at December 2016, and an estimated number of about 16,100 Nigerians die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) stated that tobacco smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and diminishes a person’s overall health, leading to cancers of the larynx, oesophageal, liver, bladder, kidney pancreas, mouth, throat, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia and diabetes.
The WHO also noted that tobacco smoking is also a major cause of many cardiovascular diseases, infertility in both males and females, causing preterm and stillbirths and other birth defects.
These tobacco users who die prematurely, according to experts, poses huge loss to their families, depriving them of their income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.
The WHO and National Cancer Institute estimated the cost of tobacco damage to the world’s economy to be over $1 trillion per year.
To address the health risk posed by tobacco, Philip Morris International (PMI), makers of Marlboro, has introduced its flagship product iQos e-cigarette as better alternative that would reduce the harm caused to the health and environment.
The company’s Vice President, Corporate Affairs EEMA and Duty Free, Alessandro Maria Poggiali, who was at the Africa Reporters Workshop on Harm Reduction held in Johannesburg, South Africa recently, said due to the dangers posed by tobacco, the company embarked on creating a safer alternative for smokers.
He said,” More than five million smokers will decide to go for a better alternative. We have launched these products including our flagship product iQos e-cigarette in more than 38 countries all over the world in the last two years, and that’s an incredibly e-cigarette exciting moment for us because we have already such a limited time span.
“We believe that those are better for the consumer, better for the society, and better for those who are around the consumer; the millions of men and women who smoke, and their family and their friends who are around them. So, those are definitely better alternatives,” Poggiali said.
Tobacco prevention and control are reported to be the two major weaknesses for most African states, with its overall prevalence rate of smoking in the continent demonstrating the highest growth rate in the world.
However, the British American Tobacco estimates that cigarettes accounts for $700 billion of the global tobacco market, which is also worth $770 billion.
A 2013 “Preventing Tobacco Epidemic in Africa” expert committee report warned that the smoking prevalence of tobacco in the African region, without comprehensive prevention and control policies, will increase by nearly 39 percent by 2030, from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 21.9 percent, which would be the largest expected regional increase globally.
Poggiali said the company, which pioneered a foundation for a Smoke-Free World, has launched its product in Africa: “ I’m very proud that the first African country which launched the iQos is South Africa. Similarly, we launched in Palestine in the Middle East region, and we are very happy for the reaction of consumers. And definitely it is a better alternative for those who continue to go for tobacco.”
He said as a company, concerned about the wellbeing of smokers, “We have embarked on a great journey. We want to transform the industry and ourselves by offering consumers better alternatives to smoking, and I think the media have a very important role to play. Our job is to inform the consumer, inform the authorities, and inform the media. Overall, we have a role in making the consumers aware of what is going on”
On the affordability of the products, Poggiali said: “Those product pricing is normally paramentalised to the product pricing worldwide. There is a great difference in the market and the country and we have that point very much in mind. Our scientific and developmental effort has produced a different number of platforms to meet the different consumer needs and demands. So, we are confident we will have the right option for every type of consumer and eagerly here in South Africa, I will like one day to see South Africa becoming a smoke-free country.”
On plans to make the product available to other parts of Africa, Poggiali added: “Our goal is to make this product available to all smokers all over the world, and it is a strong commitment that our Chief Executive Officer has taken. Clearly, we are starting with our existing consumer base, and eagerly we will like to make this product available everywhere.”
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