A landmark new report by one of the world’s most influential medical bodies has added fuel to the raging debate about graphic health warnings on all tobacco products in Kenya....CONTINUE READING THE FULL ARTICLE>>>

The report by the UK’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) challenges the one-size-fits-all approach displayed in the vividly explicit warnings being proposed by our Ministry of Health.

And it concludes that safer alternatives, such as e-cigarettes, should not be lumped together with cigarettes in terms of risk communication.

The science, says the report, is clear: e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than cigarettes. The RCP’s systematic review of years of research conducted worldwide paints a consistent picture – e-cigarettes contain a fraction of the toxins found in cigarettes, dramatically reducing the risk of death and disability for smokers who switch.

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Furthermore, evidence from randomised controlled trials and from two Cochrane reviews shows e-cigarettes are more effective at helping people quit than nicotine replacement therapy.

However, the Health ministry’s proposed warnings portray e-cigarettes as equally dangerous as cigarettes. This not only discourages smokers from exploring a potentially life-saving alternative, but also risks confusing the public about the relative risks of these products.

The RCP report highlights the ethical dilemma of this situation. How can we effectively communicate the dangers of smoking while simultaneously informing smokers about a less harmful option? Here’s where the report proposes a shift in messaging.

By acknowledging the significant difference in risk between cigarettes and e-cigarettes, health warnings can be tailored to reflect the reality. This does not mean downplaying the potential health effects of e-cigarettes, but rather providing a more nuanced picture.

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The report does not advocate for a free pass for e-cigarettes. It emphasises the need for strong policies to prevent young people from taking up smoking and support ongoing research to monitor long-term effects. However, it argues for a more sophisticated approach to risk communication.

“It is important to provide users of e-cigarettes with as much accurate data as possible on the relative and absolute health effects of e-cigarettes in comparison to use of combustible tobacco,” the report states.

“Nicotine warnings on e-cigarette packaging may affect harm and addictiveness perceptions and reduce intentions to vape among adults who smoke.”

So how best to proceed? The report’s recommendations include adopting measures that encourage e-cigarette use for smoking cessation encompassing policies that address availability, affordability, access to nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

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The report also proposes that a range of flavours be made available to facilitate quitting among adults who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Messages on the relative risks of vaping and smoking should also be required on cigarette packs and on package inserts.

Smoking rates in the UK have fallen by almost 75 percent in the last decade, as use of e-cigarettes has risen. The evidence-based approach championed by the UK offers a valuable lesson for Kenya’s policymakers.

By recognizing the varying risk profiles of different nicotine products, we can craft public health messages that are both accurate and effective.

This ultimately empowers smokers to make informed decisions about their health, potentially saving countless lives in the process..CONTINUE READING>>

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