Adopt Sweden’s Tobacco Policy, Experts Urge Government


Experts have called on government, public health authorities and stakeholders to consider replicating Sweden’s tobacco policy to achieve a smoke-free Nigeria.

BrandSpur Nigeria reports that the call was made in Thursday at a roundtable on Tobacco Harm Reduction(THR) with the theme: ” The Impact of Harm Reduction Strategies on Smoking Cessation” in Lagos.

Prof. Nnanyelugo Ike-Muonso, the President of ValueFronteira Limited, said while tobacco use remained a public health concern in Nigeria, finding effective harm reduction strategies had become vital.

Ike-Muonso said that the economic effects of smoking was estimated at N634 billion annually in 2019, with 0.28 per cent economic burden on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2013 and 2020, quoting the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR).

He affirmed that adopting Sweden’s blueprint for a smoke-free country and associated tobacco harm reduction policies was not just a choice but a responsibility to citizens and the future generations of Nigeria.

He said “Sweden has indeed become a beacon of hope in the global fight against tobacco, with its unique approach to tobacco control leading to a significant decrease in smoking rates and a consequent improvement in public health.

“Sweden is on track to becoming Europe’s first ‘Smoke Free’ country, with its smoking prevalence rate expected to drop below five per cent in the coming months and the country’s strategies can potentially save 15.5 million lives in the next decade.”

Ike-Muonso explained that to drive successful implementation of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) policies, Nigeria must develop a comprehensive THR policy framework aligned with global best practices, tailored to Nigeria’s unique context.

He called for the launch of extensive public awareness campaigns to educate citizens, healthcare professionals and policymakers about the benefits of THR.

He said “Nigerian health authorities should forge partnerships with media outlets to disseminate accurate information and counteract misinformation regarding THR policies.

“They must strengthen knowledge among healthcare professionals about THR policies through targeted training programs
and awareness initiatives, work on policies, reduced excise duties on risk reduction products that ensure their affordability compared to traditional cigarettes, making them accessible to a broader population.

We must encourage research and development in the field of THR, supporting innovations and advancements in less harmful alternatives and collaborate with international organizations and countries that have successfully implemented THR policies to gain insights and support.

“Nigeria must institute robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the effectiveness of THR policies regularly.”

Mr Teslim Shitta-Bey, the Chief Economist, Proshare, quoted World Health Organisation (WHO) report that states that tobacco use is responsible for over eight million deaths annually, predicted to rise to 10 million by 2025.

Shitta-Bey said that the dangers associated with tobacco smoking are not limited to death alone, but the economic toll is equally staggering, with substantial smoking-related healthcare and productivity losses and negative impacts on the environment.

He said that 8,004 tones of butts and packs of cigarettes end up as toxic trash each year, creating severe ecological impact that is detrimental and damaging.

The economist said many countries are beginning to shift to alternative non-combustible risk reduction tobacco alternatives to reduce the health, economic and productivity risks associated with smoking.

According to him, Sweden has become the global example in shifting to tobacco alternatives and achieving the lowest smoking rates,
saying the country’s innovative approach to tobacco harm reduction presents tremendous inspiration to Nigeria.

He noted that only 5.6 per cent of the Swedish population are daily smokers, compared with the EU average of 19 per cent, resulting in the country having the lowest lung cancer rates in Europe and one of the lowest rates of tobacco-related deaths.

He added that “beyond reduction in smoking prevalence, Sweden’s experience demonstrates tangible health benefits as the country
has witnessed a decline in smoking-related diseases, leading to lower healthcare costs.

“Economically, the impact is substantial. The Businesswire, a Berkshire Hathaway Company, has acknowledged that reduced healthcare expenditures, increased workplace productivity, and a healthier workforce contribute to Sweden’s economic resilience.

“For Nigeria to replicate Sweden’s success, we must revisit and enforce tobacco harm reduction policies, launch public awareness campaigns, collaborate with media, strengthen knowledge among healthcare professionals and promote the affordability of harm reduction products.”

On his part, Prof. Adi Bongo, Professor of Economics at the Lagos Business School, said “with about 50 per cent of Nigerians
below the poverty line, people think that issues with smoking are not a major problem, when in reality, it is.”

He stressed that tax policies such as increase in excise tax was not the solution to discourage cigarette smoking, instead, it would lead to increase due to the addiction tendencies of smoking.

“United States government used tax policies such as excise tax to discourage smoking, which led to increase in price of cigarettes and increased crime rate.

“When people are addicted to certain substances, it takes quite a lot to get them off the hook because even if the price increases, such people
are not likely to reduce consumption, instead, crime increases to fund their ability to buy it.

“What really works is an educational, behavioral interventions that can help people to change their habits.

“Also, religious circles, academic institutions can employ social communication to help people get over this habit,” he said.