Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategies Could Save 320,000 Lives In South Africa
A groundbreaking new research study titled "Integrating harm reduction into tobacco control. How many lives could be saved by accelerating tobacco control policies in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Africa, and Bangladesh?" reveals a staggering opportunity: adopting Sweden's tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies could save 2.6 million lives in four developing countries by 2060.
This landmark study launched at an event held by tobaccoharmreduction.net in London yesterday, provides compelling evidence for the integration of harm reduction measures as a cornerstone of comprehensive tobacco control.
Dr. Derek Yach, principal author of the report, said: "Traditional measures for tobacco control have hit a plateau, despite smoking remaining the primary preventable cause of premature death globally. Governments already possess the tools for transformation; they only need to recognize that tobacco harm reduction products—already used by 150 million people worldwide—are instrumental in resolving this crisis."
Currently, smoking claims more than 8.5 million lives annually, a toll that the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts will surge to 10 million. Yet, "Integrating harm reduction into tobacco control. How many lives could be saved by accelerating tobacco control policies in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Africa, and Bangladesh?” highlights the promise of a different path, showing that considerable loss of life can be prevented in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, South Africa, and Bangladesh by embracing THR.
Dr. Delon Human, a key contributor to the report, states: "Tobacco control alone is insufficient in combating the deeply entrenched cigarette epidemic. It must be augmented by a comprehensive set of harm reduction measures. This includes the acceptance, availability, and affordability of less harmful alternatives like vaping and nicotine pouches, as well as proactive measures for early cancer diagnosis and treatment."
Sweden provides the most compelling example of what THR can achieve. The country is on track to become virtually "smoke-free," with smoking rates falling to nearly 5%. This is not only a badge of honor but also translates into the lowest cancer rates in Europe and reduced mortality from smoking. A significant part of this success story is Sweden's thoughtful approach to THR, as highlighted by its recent decision to cut taxes on snus, a less harmful tobacco alternative.
The report provides estimates on the lives that could be saved in the four countries studied, should tobacco control be complemented by harm reduction strategies:
South Africa: 320,000 lives Bangladesh: 920,000 lives Kazakhstan: 165,000 lives Pakistan: 1.2 million lives
Dr. Human adds, "Our message and recommendation is to not abandon tobacco control but enrich it with validated harm reduction strategies. Policymakers worldwide have both the moral obligation and the practical means to act. Adopting harm reduction strategies can radically rewrite the narrative, pivoting us from grim statistics to real stories of lives saved."
Read more about how many lives could be saved by adopting Tobacco Harm Reduction.