By Agbonkhese Oboh

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has joined in the worldwide condemnation of last week’s launch of The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction Report in Lilongwe, the Malawi capital.

At the launch of the initiative, the Malawi government announced that it was committed to promoting the implementation of policies, regulations and programmes aimed at reducing health risks associated with tobacco smoking.

Chief of Health Service in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Mwansambo, who represented the Malawi government, said apart from existing initiatives being undertaken to promote healthy lives in the wake of tobacco smoking in Malawi, there was need to enhance strategies and cooperation in addressing the problem.

However, in a statement by Philip Jakpor, ERA/FoEN’s Head of Media & Campaigns, the environmental rights group said public health experts have, since it was first made public in 2018, raised concern about the report dubbed “No fire, No Smoke— Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction,” insisting that it was a publicity stunt by a major tobacco manufacturer to promote its so-called “safer nicotine products.”

It added that the “No Fire, No Smoke Report” was produced by Knowledge Action Change with funds solely provided by major tobacco manufacturer-backed foundation.

According to ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, “we are in solidarity with public health experts that this is another self-promotion by the tobacco industry deceptively flavored to lure unsuspecting public and government to believe it was concerned about the health risks of smoking.

“The basic standard for addressing the tobacco menace brought upon us by the tobacco industry is in the World Health Organisation – Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, WHO-FCTC. Its guidelines and its full implementation by Parties will reverse the tobacco harms and hopefully hold the tobacco industry accountable.

“We urge the Malawi government to rescind its support for this industry-scripted document and side with genuine public health. Other nations must also be cautious of the tobacco industry’s attempt to confuse them through this kind of initiative and others.”

He further warned other African governments to focus on enacting and enforcing FCTC-compliant laws, “rather than serve as tools for manipulation by the tobacco industry that is most concerned about profit and cared less about the health of our people across the continent.”

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