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Los Angeles Times: Big Tobacco Targets Africa

Strong measures needed to curb preventable deaths

Posted by: Editor | Dec 15, 2012

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As smoking declines in many developed nations, the tobacco industry is targeting low- and middle-income countries, and Africa is a prime target for the industry’s deadly products.

According to a new article in The Los Angeles Times, “Africa is Big Tobacco’s last frontier, and companies are conquering the continent stick by stick.  Even a child can afford the cost of a single cigarette,” which can be as low as 16 cents.

The article cites a 2011 study by the University of Michigan that found “without more action by African nations to discourage smoking, the percentage of smokers will rise from an average 16% to 22% by 2030, a massive increase given U.N. predictions that sub-Saharan Africa's population will rise by half a billion, to 1.3 billion, by then.”

Tobacco control experts quoted in the article shared similar fears:

  • Yussuf Saloojee of South Africa’s National Council Against Smoking:  “This is a major battleground.  The African population is very young.  If they can hook customers now, they’ve got customers for the next 40 or 50 years.  So the prospects of an increasing market share are very good.”
  • Evan Blecher, an economist with the American Cancer Society’s International Tobacco Control Research Program:   “Twenty years ago, the industry wasn't interested in Africa because they were still seeing considerable growth in other markets.  As they've been pushed out of America, Australia, Europe, they're moving on to the next lowest-hanging fruit.  With the resources that they have and the experience they have, they will be successful if nothing's done."’

The article underscores the urgent need for African nations to implement proven measures to reduce tobacco use, as called for by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the world’s first public health treaty.  These measures included higher tobacco taxes; 100 percent smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public bans; large, graphic health warnings; and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

African governments need to be as aggressive in protecting the health and lives of their citizens as the tobacco industry is in targeting them.

 

 

 

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