Public Health Experts Urge Kenya To Adopt Swedish Model To Reduce Smoking Prevalence

Public Health Experts Urge Kenya To Adopt Swedish Model To Reduce Smoking Prevalence

Nairobi, Kenya Apr 6 – Public health experts have urged Kenyan lawmakers to adopt the pioneering example set by Sweden, to encourage Kenyans to quit smoking.

Sweden is set to become the first country in the world to achieve ‘smoke-free’ status when its tobacco smoking prevalence rate falls below 5% in the next few months based on current trends.

This is the level below which a nation is considered smoke-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

An international research seminar in Stockholm last month heard that the Swedes have achieved this historic milestone by developing a specific policy formula towards alternative nicotine products, such as vapes and oral nicotine pouches, as less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes.

Speaking in Nairobi, Wednesday Dr. Michael Kariuki, Consultant paediatrician, epidemiologist, and researcher said that if Kenya can follow Sweden’s example and facilitate adult smokers’ transition to less harmful alternatives, it could save thousands of lives in our country.

“Sweden has made these tobacco harm reduction products as accessible, acceptable, and affordable as possible to adult smokers. By doing so, they have effectively wiped-out smoking in a country where, 50 years ago, 49% of men were smoking regularly,” he said.

On his part Dr. Nick Mutisya, Consultant paediatrician and Researcher, pointed out that smoking rates in the country remain high despite strict regulatory restrictions, which include the prohibition of smoking in public places and mandatory health warnings on product packaging.

He added that if the situation is not addressed Kenya could fail to achieve Health Ministry’s target of 9.7 per cent smoking prevalence by 2025.

“Like the Swedes, our policymakers must appreciate that moving away from smoking is immensely difficult, and we need to provide smokers with an escape route,” he said.

“The Government is blocking that escape route by classifying vapes and pouches as tobacco products and subjecting them to high taxes and marketing restrictions that apply to the far more harmful traditional cigarettes.”

To beat smoking like Sweden, Dr. Mutisya urged politicians in the country to support harm reduction strategies and make smoke-free alternatives more affordable than cigarettes.

 He added that health professionals and smokers should be educated in the science involved, so that they can make informed choices.

“Kenya can – and should – benefit from Sweden’s successful switch to smoke-free status. Our policymakers need to apply the same evidence-based solutions that have already started to save millions of lives elsewhere.”

The success of the ‘Swedish Model’ is highlighted in the report The Swedish experience: A roadmap for a smoke-free society.

 Compared to the rest of the European Union, Sweden has 44% fewer tobacco-related deaths, a cancer rate that is 41% lower, and 38% fewer deaths attributable to any cancer.

If every other country in the EU followed Sweden’s example in its approach to tobacco harm reduction, up to 3.5 million early deaths in Europe alone would be prevented in just one decade, the report states.

Source: Capital Fm