Why are tobacco companies embracing harm reduction but fail to avail safer products to the African market?

Joseph Magero
2 min readJun 21, 2019

According to the tobacco atlas, about 77 million Africans continue to smoke, even after one of the most intense public health campaigns in history, tobacco control. Each year some 500,000 smokers die from smoking-related diseases, including lung and other cancers, cardiovascular disorders and pulmonary diseases. With a rapidly growing young population and rising prosperity, sadly, in many African countries the number of smokers is expected to soar. Perhaps one of the highest increases (at least in number terms) will be in Nigeria, where the number of smokers is expected to double from about 7,358,700 to roughly 16,868,400 by 2025. Interestingly enough, smoking rates are expected to drop drastically in older and much more traditional markets. This can be attributed to tobacco harm reduction, an approach the tobacco industry has openly embraced.

British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Imperial tobacco and Japan Tobacco are the most dominant tobacco companies in Africa. They all embrace harm reduction and agree that smokers deserve safer alternatives from the traditional cigarettes. All these companies have products that are safer than cigarettes, products that have been researched, tested and approved. Apart from South Africa, most of the companies in Africa are having to rely on Chinese manufacturers and other independent companies to supply them with e cigarettes, heat-not-burn & snus.

Safer alternatives are playing a major role in saving smokers’ lives and helping them to quit in European and American countries. In Africa however, smokers continue to die simply because they do not have access to these products. Snus for example, is LEGAL in most countries in Africa, according to the Global State of tobacco harm reduction report.

There seems to be a reluctance in availing safer products to smokers in Africa. The industry has capacity to research, manufacture and supply these products. I do understand that it has to make economical sense, and regulations have to be favorable, but you cannot purport to be pro tobacco harm reduction but not back your words. African smokers matter too! The industry should be doing more to save their lives! 500,000 people dying every year from smoking related diseases, yet you have safer products but fail to avail them is an OUTRAGE!