Expert says fight against tobacco industry has waned, needs innovation

A new international report said the global fight against tobacco use has waned, and former Health Professions Council (HPCSA) president Dr Kgosi Letlape said innovation and new regulations are needed.

Dr Letlape, who was one of the experts that worked on the report, said: “We must differentiate between smoking and smokers.

“Remember that behind every cigarette is a human being, and we need to come up with policies that assist smokers, rather than victimises them even more when they are addicted to something that has the potential to harm their health.

“There is a gap in the regulations and that is why we need new regulations, just like you have people smoking e-cigarettes without any regulatory framework or guidance.

“We need to step in quickly to ensure we provide guidance to manufacturers but, more importantly, to provide correct information to the public and to smokers about the alternatives that are available,” said Dr Letlape.

The report said that, worldwide, an estimated 1.1 billion people use tobacco and nearly 8 million die each year, of tobacco-related causes.

It said that since the creation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty, 18 years ago, tobacco demand has declined, but far too slowly and not at all in some low- and middle-income countries.

With regard to lessons learned from the evasion, by many smokers, of the ban imposed on the sale of all tobacco and vaping products between March 27 and August 17 last year, as part of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, Letlape said one of the main lessons was that bans do not work.

He said if you prevent addicts from purchasing legal merchandise, they will find their way to the black market.

He said regulations need to be based on scientific evidence, not value systems or judgments, and certainly not morality.

Meanwhile, the recently released 2021 Tobacco Industry Interference Index Report has said the South African government is not doing enough to stop the tobacco industry’s interference with policy.

The index is an annual review of how governments protect public health policies from the tobacco industry’s influence.

National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) interim executive director Dr Yussuf Saloojee said: “It is disappointing that the tobacco industry remains healthy, while its customers grow ill and die. We need to do more to stop industry influence in policy.

“South Africa does poorly in transparency. Meetings with tobacco manufactures are not announced and minutes are not available to the public.”

Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) Research and Advocacy head Dr Mary Assunta said: “The tobacco industry likes operating in the dark, where they can meddle with policy decisions.

“We see that countries that do well in stopping tobacco industry interference are transparent in their dealings with the industry. We encourage South Africa to do the same, to record and share meetings, and any political donations from the tobacco industry,” said Dr Assunta.

Source: IOL