Burning Issues: new GSTHR report set to launch online with free open access event on Wednesday 4 November


On Wednesday 4 November 2020 from 10:00 GMT, Knowledge-Action-Change is set to launch Burning Issues: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2020, a major new report documenting both the advances and significant challenges facing tobacco harm reduction in 2020.

The report is the second in a biennial series from the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR), a unique project established to map the development of tobacco harm reduction and use, availability and regulatory responses to safer nicotine products around the world.

The launch event, being held in partnership with THR Malawi, will be livestreamed over three interactive sessions from London, Lilongwe and locations around the world. Guest speakers include the internationally renowned neuropsychopharmacologist Professor David Nutt, who will be providing a keynote address, along with Australian MP and Leader of the Reason Party Fiona Patten, the Counterfactual’s Clive Bates, INNCO President Samrat Chowdhery, NNA UK’s Martin Cullip and Chimwemwe Ngoma of THR Malawi.

The audience will also hear from key members of the GSTHR team, including Executive Editor Harry Shapiro and Project Director Professor Gerry Stimson, who will explore the report’s findings in detail. Burning Issues takes stock, addressing both progress and achievements in the field since the first edition was published in 2018, but also identifying the major obstacles preventing tobacco harm reduction from fulfilling its public health potential worldwide. With over 8 million deaths still attributable to smoking-related causes every year, the report authors hope that the findings, conclusions and recommendations will be of interest to policymakers at all levels, particularly during the current EU TPD review process and in advance of the WHO’s delayed COP9, now set for 2021.

Registered audience members will be invited to pose their questions live at the end of each panel. Sessions will be available for playback and the full report will be available for download from 4 November. Registration is free and all are welcome. For the full programme and to register, visit events.gsthr.org 


What does the substantial decline in cigarette sales mean for tobacco farmers in Africa? Worldwide,
smokers are shifting to vaping, heated products, snus and other safer nicotine products. Safer
alternatives are causing a reduction in demand for tobacco. Several Africa countries rely heavily on
tobacco farming.
Five countries in Africa are among the top 20 producers of tobacco leaf in the world: Malawi (6th),
Tanzania (8th), Zimbabwe (9th), Zambia (16th) and Mozambique (17th).Most of the tobacco growing
countries in Africa are among the world’s poorest countries. The countries view tobacco leaf export as
an important source of income, and as a means to alleviate poverty. African countries produced 650,000
tons, or 8.7% of the world production of tobacco leaf in 2012, compared to 440,000 tons or 7.3% in
2003. Total area harvested for tobacco in African countries increased by 66% and output increased by
48%. In this same period, area harvested for tobacco in the United States decreased by 18% while
production decreased by 5%. For Europe, the decrease is 40.4% in the area harvested and 43% in
Tobacco leaf exports in these five countries play an important role in their export trade. Tobacco leaf is
the top agricultural export for Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It ranked as the 2nd agricultural
export in Tanzania and 3rd in Zambia. In Malawi, one of the most heavily tobacco-dependent economies
in the world, tobacco accounts for over 60% of the country’s total annual earnings, and accounts for
13% of the economy as measured by the GDP. In Zimbabwe, tobacco leaf accounts for 22.64% of total
exports .In Mozambique, tobacco accounts for 7.8% of total exports.
These countries are facing a bleak future, now that the industry is shifting to a smokeless future. As
much as a decline in smoking is good for public health, there will be dire consequences for countries
that rely heavily on tobacco farming. Tobacco farmers need to be prepared for an era of significantly
reduced demand for tobacco. The W.H.O F.C.T.C’s treaty specifies that signatory countries should
promote economically viable alternatives to tobacco for farmers; to reduce the amount of land
cultivated for tobacco leaf; and to protect the environment and health of farmers. They however, fail to
promote viable alternatives for these famers.
In many tobacco growing countries, tobacco growing affects food production. According to the 2013
Global Hunger Index developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Zambia (with a score
of 24.1), Mozambique (with a score of 21.5), and Tanzania (with a score of 20.6) fall into the “alarming”
category. Zimbabwe and Malawi, with scores of 16.5 and 15.1 respectively, fall into the “serious”
category of the index. Just as increased tobacco growing conflicts with objectives of self sufficiency in
food production in many African countries, a reduction will see the opposite begin to happen.
Both the W.H.O F.C.T.C and tobacco companies are mandated to assist tobacco farmers’ shift from
tobacco growing to other viable alternatives. If the war on smoking is to be won, we cannot overlook
farmers. Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco cultivation should be made available to these


Campaign for Safer Alternatives is a pan-African non-governmental member organization dedicated to achieving 100% smoke free environments in Africa. 

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