A new report prepared by experts from several countries represented on The International Commission to Reignite the Fight Against Smoking, calls for the tobacco Industry to become a key stakeholder in the drive to address the global health challenges of tobacco smoking.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate global healthcare narratives, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the world having purportedly claimed twice as many lives each year as COVID has taken in the last two years.

The study, which has been lauded as “a hugely authoritative call to reshape global efforts to help smokers switch from smoking” also emphasises the role of decisive regulation and policy, based on science.

“In South Africa, which is considered the second most stressful country to live in, with commensurate rates of depression and anxiety, there are almost 12 million smokers – over 31% of the population – with prevalence among South African men at a striking 47%,” report panellist, Dr Kgosi Letlape (pictured), ophthalmologist and health care administrator, has noted..

Letlape suggested that the same sense of urgency that emerged against COVID-19 should be cultivated against the hazards of among tobacco industry stakeholders, users, manufacturers, HCWs, and government: “The findings of our extensive study indicate that a technology-driven approach, backed by logical governance, based on scientific data, rather than emotional or cultural sentiment, holds the key to drastically reducing the harmful effects of smoking and reducing preventable deaths.

“The tobacco industry has earned a poor reputation through decades of deceit and malfeasance. Furthermore,” Letlape continued, “many nations who are current signatories of the UN’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) own or partly control state-run tobacco companies, which gives rise to a conflict of interest in which tobacco parastatals must agree to curtail an activity from which they themselves profit.”

Nevertheless, he and his colleagues at the commission believe that the tobacco industry is now needed as a key stakeholder in the struggle to end tobacco smoking: “The pharmaceutical industry offers precedent for how an embattled industry with a dubious public perception can reform, commit unequivocally to public good, and regain public trust. When the COVID pandemic struck, the world acknowledged the need for the pharmaceutical industry’s capacity for sophisticated innovative solutions. Likewise, we must recognise that the tobacco industry has the expertise necessary to drive innovation in the field of tobacco cessation and disruptive THR (Tobacco Harm Reduction) technologies, where they sit at the forefront.”

*Full report can be accessed at

Commission Report
Commission Report_September 2021.pdf – 48 MB

SOURCE: HWB Communications media release