Tobacco industry activity is booming across the African continent, according to ACS. Between 1990 and 2009, cigarette consumption in the Middle East and Africa increased by 57 percent. According to the The Tobacco Atlas ‘ Fourth Edition, four African countries ‘ Mozambique, Zambia, Mali and Ghana ‘ are among the top five countries with the greatest increase in tobacco production in the last decade.
Women in Africa, who have a relatively low smoking prevalence compared to other regions of the world, are of particular concern because of aggressive targeting by the industry.
In comparison to Senegal’s 12 percent smoking rate in boys, in other French speaking African countries the rate is higher and likely to keep growing – Cote d’Ivoire (19 percent), Algeria (18 percent) and Congo (15 percent). Almost 48 percent of Senegalese youth live in homes where others smoke in their presence. Similarly alarming levels of exposure to deadly second-hand smoke occur in Mali (48 percent), Sierra Leone (44 percent), and Mauritania (43 percent).
According to the Atlas, almost 20 percent of youth in Senegal report having an item with a tobacco logo on it, with even higher percentages in Chad (30 percent), Niger (30 percent) and Mauritania (28 percent). This data suggest young people are being subjected to health harms and an aggressive marketing is already underway to grab a new generation of users.
‘We have an unprecedented opportunity to prevent a pandemic in many parts of this region,’ said Michael Eriksen, professor and founding director of the Institute of Public Health at Georgia State University in Atlanta, in the United States, and lead author of the Tobacco Atlas ‘ Fourth Edition.
‘Tobacco control is especially important in Africa, where smoking rates in most countries are still low. Given the track record and devious behaviours of tobacco companies, we must take urgent action, ‘ said Eriksen.
‘Tobacco is the only legal product that kills when used as directed,’ said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. ‘Africa represents the last untapped market for the tobacco industry. It is critical that public health and government officials in Africa work together to prevent a potential tsunami of deaths from this deadly product.’
‘In many countries, the higher percentages of smokers are adults, but in Africa, youth are catching up and even surpassing the previous generation,’ said Peter Baldini, Chief Executive Officer, World Lung Foundation. ‘We must act now to prevent millions of people from losing their lives to an insidious industry.’
In 2011, according to The Tobacco Atlas, tobacco use killed almost 6 million people, with nearly 80 percent of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. If trends continue, one billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure during the 21st century ‘ one person every six seconds. Globally, tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade, and tobacco is responsible for more than 15 percent of all male deaths and 7 percent of female deaths.
Sources: American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation