Category Archives: Harm reduction


By Sahani Lungu (Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocate)

Fact, in Malawi, agriculture contributes to 1/3rd of the country’s GDP and up to 80% of the total revenue.  Tobacco is the main cash crop contributing to approximately 47% of the total forex revenue each year. In 2018, tobacco revenue reached a record high of USD 337.5 million,  up from the USD 212.4 million in the previous year, raising it’s forex contribution to 60%. Another fact is tobacco ‘ s success or lack thereof on the market has adverse effects on the Malawi economy. In some quarters tobacco is referred to as a “Political Crop.” The crop itself is politically sensitive,  this is because tobacco revenue has the power to either make or break the country’s economy. The outcome of which is reflected in the country’s inflation economics thereby dictating the direction of mainstream political rhetoric.

It is not surprising therefore that from a political point of view,  there is little effort towards enacting stringent laws or policies that regulate the use of tobacco products. This can be in part, due to to the perceived fear such regulations might have on the country’s tobacco economics. The well known piece of legislation is the “Tobacco Act” which regulates the growing and exportation of tobacco,  mainly because this where the “money is at.” Even at that,  the act mainly covers tobacco production quotas and tobacco pricing and little to do with health protection of smokers,  regulating public smoking or protecting the health of farmers and laborers (who are mostly underage children) who get exposed to nicotine that permeates through the skin when handling tobacco in in the field. Foreign firms buy tobacco from Malawi for use in manufacturing cigarettes. If you have been reading the publications on on this site,  by now you know that there is a worldwide campaign against smoking tobacco cigarettes because of the known harmful effects that nicotine contained in tobacco cigarettes has on the human body.

Using scientific based evidence on the harmful effects of tobacco smoking,  international lobbyists have led anti-smoking advocacy campaigns that have resulted in countries adopting laws and policies that regulate consumption of tobacco products. The World Health Organization (WHO) in its effort to end the tobacco epidemic,  entered into force the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in February 2005. The FCTC provides legal dimension for international health cooperation on regulations that extend to; monitoring use and prevention policies,  protecting people from tobacco use,  offering help to quit tobacco use, warnings about the dangers of tobacco,  enforcing bans on Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and also raising taxes on tobacco. In Malawi however, little is being done to implement the provisions of the FCTC. There is no national agency focused on tobacco use control, there are no restrictions on smoking in public places,  advertising or promotion. There is no law that requires tobacco packaging to display a warning or the associated risks. And there are no laws requiring a minimum tobacco exercise tax rate. On the international front, such laws have contributed to a significant drop in the number of people who smoke,  increase in those who attempt to quit and those who quit entirely or adopt other scientifically proven ways of curbing the nicotine urge. As of 2015, it stated that 21% of the word population smoked and it was projected that the figure will drop to 17% by 2030. This inadvertently is contributing to the drop in on the demand and prices of raw tobacco worldwide. For Malawi (a country largely dependent on Tobacco exports and in the  top ten of the largest tobacco growers in the world),  this not a good sign both politically and economically. Even though tobacco revenue was at a record high this year, government cannot guarantee the same for next year or in the long-run.

This year,  Malawi through the Tobacco Association of Malawi eyed for a slot at the FCTC. This need for a seat at the table was not as one would assume to discuss how Malawi will implement measures to safeguard the health of the population from tobacco harm. Their need for a seat was to, as they framed it as “to enhance a strategic exist of the industry and preserve the economic wellbeing of growers in in the country. At the surface, protecting the poor farmers is all noble and good, but the bottom line is they were aiming to safeguard the economic and political interests of the country. This because WHO is known to make drastic decisions with regards to meeting the set goals  of the FCTC.

It should be noted that Malawi is not and cannot be invisible to the pressure from anti-smoking lobbyists. It is high time Malawi had had a real political discussion on the need to first of all adopt policies that protect its people from the harmful effects of tobacco (which leads to up to 5, 700 related preventable deaths annually) right from the field during during the handling of tobacco and also regulate the consumption of tobacco. Secondly,  the country needs to boost up efforts towards the finding and  farming of substitute cash crop a in order to reduce the tobacco over reliance. Better yet,  the country can invest in developing other areas such as the service industry, industrialization and tourism so as to maximize their forex earning capacity.

Phiri F, Stoddard E & Fenton S (2018) Malawi Tobacco Revenue Jumps 60 Pct This Year. Retrieved from:

Mzale D (2014) Tobacco Contribution Down to 47%. Retrieved from:

Jimu C (2016) Malawi Vows to Continue Growing Tobacco. Retrieved from:

World Health Organization (2018) Tobacco. Retrieved from:

Statista (2018) Smoking- Statistics & Facts. Retrieved from:

Mangazi C (2018) Tama Eyes FCTC Slot. Retrieved from:

Drope J, Makoka D, Lencucha R & Appau A (2016) Farm-Level Economics of Tobacco Production in Malawi. Revised edition.  Presented by: Center for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD). Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR).


The KAC Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme 2019

Recent years have seen advances in the scientific understanding of products used for tobacco harm reduction, including laboratory-based and clinical studies of their effects and safety, behavioral studies of how and why they are used in different populations and contexts, epidemiological studies into patterns of use, and the relationship between the use of these products and changes in tobacco smoking. Continue reading The KAC Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme 2019

Tobacco Free Kids

More than 5,000 children within the age range of 10 to 15 smoke tobacco in Malawi- Tobacco Atlas. Continue reading Tobacco Free Kids

Sweet deadly sensation

By Sahani Lungu (Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocate) 

There is compounding scientific evidence that smokers enjoy their habit because it stimulates the flow of feel good chemicals in the brain. This feel good factor becomes a blissful substitute for stress and anxiety. Smoking in a way provides smokers a sweet escape from everyday rational and emotional quagmire. This is because the chemicals in the cigarettes target the brain’s natural system of chemicals called endogenous opioid, which is responsible for relieving painful sensations and heightening positive emotions. Continue reading Sweet deadly sensation


By Lonjezo Idrissa

When different song artists started writing and producing their own songs for their societies, the music industry used to be one of the major channels for disseminating important information about education, life lessons, experiences and advises that helped to develop many lives of people. The songs played a significant part in the everyday lives of people across age, class, religion and ethnicity.  Continue reading MUSICIAN’S ROLE ON TOBACCO SMOKING

Malawi VP views on tobacco harms

“We are mindful of the anti smoking lobby and the dangers associated with smoking in terms of nicotine. We are also aware that we need to diversify away from tobacco and that is being done”. Saulos Chilima- Vice President of the Republic of Malawi.

Let’s deal with cigarette addiction

By Dumase Gzambo Mapemba.

He is a lung cancer patient under chemotherapy, bedridden in the medical ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital where he is battling for his life, doctors established that he is suffering from the deadly disease because of tobacco smoking. Shockingly, he periodically sneaks out of the hospital to source tobacco cigarettes in order to satisfy his crave for smoking. Continue reading Let’s deal with cigarette addiction

Wheel of Tobacco Regulation

We must take the initiative to use these interventions more vigorously. This will require governments, civil society, researchers to work together. The Tobacco Atlas

Mkamanga’s testimony on tobacco harms

On 5 September, 2018, Tobacco Harm Reduction team had an opportunity to converse with Mr. Kumbukani Mkamanga, a Nursing Officer, medical ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe. During the interaction, Mkamanga mentioned that most of the patients he receives in the ward suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer which are caused by smoking and inhaling of tobacco smoke. Continue reading Mkamanga’s testimony on tobacco harms

NCDI’s and programmatic funding.

Dr. Jones Masiye,NCDI Commission chairperson making a presentation of the NCDI Poverty Commission Report.

“The disease burden caused by Non Communicable Diseases and Injuries (NCDI) is more than 30% but the programmatic funding allocated for the NCDI’s is less than 1%. Why can’t we advocate for heavy taxes on tobacco products and channel the revenue to support NCDI . Dr. Jones Masiye.