This has seen food manufacturers introduce reduced-sugar and no-sugar variants amongst their products. Alcohol manufacturers are also innovating to meet consumers’ changing preferences.
The tobacco industry, under pressure over its harmful health effects, has been long working on developing better alternatives to cigarettes. According to Philip Morris International, since 2014, millions of smokers around the world have switched from cigarettes to IQOS, its electrically heated tobacco system, a product that is a scientifically substantiated better alternative to conventional cigarette smoking.
In a historic decision announced on July 7, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of IQOS in the USA, as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP). The FDA found that “the IQOS system heats tobacco but does not burn it,” “this significantly reduces the production of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals,” and “scientific studies have shown that switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system significantly reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.” This authorization marks a turning point in this never-ending debate on reduced-risk tobacco alternatives.
This is the first time that the FDA has granted MRTP marketing orders for an innovative electronic alternative to cigarettes, after completing its scientific review of PMI’s evidence package and independent studies. This decision confirms that IQOS is distinctly different from cigarettes because it has been demonstrated to reduce exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals and that this information should be communicated to consumers to help guide their choices.
This paves way for providing consumers with factual information to enable them to make informed choices. It also sets a major regulatory precedent for the tobacco industry, one that leans on scientific evidence.
Essentially, this is expected to enrich the debate around these kinds of products – that are often demonized without objective analysis backed by science. This elevates the contribution of scientific evidence in determining the level of risk of alternative tobacco products, compared to conventional cigarettes.
This not only recognises the risk continuum but also affirms fundamental differences between non-combustible tobacco products (such as IQOS) and cigarettes. It is therefore critical that policy and regulation of the industry reflect this.
Hitherto, opinion has been split over addressing the global public health discourse on dealing with smoking and its effects.
This has had anti-tobacco activists touting quitting conventional cigarettes as the only way of dealing with the harmful effects of smoking. Tobacco manufacturers, on the other hand, have vigorously pushed for the recognition of less harmful alternatives and creating a conducive environment for them to be developed and brought to market. This has had them make sustained investment in this regard.
This has not been helped by the hardline stance taken by the World Health Organization, insisting that the safest approach is to use neither conventional nor novel tobacco products. This has left little room for engagement on less harmful alternatives.
However, there is a ray of hope with the new decision by FDA. It bears lessons for regulatory bodies that have oversight of tobacco industry in other jurisdictions to consider.
The FDA decision paves way for availing this information to the 40 million consumers within the US jurisdiction in an effort to guide their choices towards scientifically substantiated alternatives. It grants these smokers, who do not want to take the option of quitting, a better choice compared to continuing to smoke combustible cigarettes. This information needs to be availed for other consumers across the world too, for them to make an informed choice, in accordance with the law.
It also sets a precedent for policy makers from the rest of the world to learn from. They need to borrow a leaf by considering a science-based approach. By giving science a chance, policymakers will help in generating a strong evidence base to support a robust global discourse.
The writer is a Public Policy specialist at Vellum.
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.