Cigarette advertising outside a school in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Cigarette advertising outside a school in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Tobacco companies are aggressively marketing cigarettes to African school children in an attempt to expand their markets.

This is according to the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), which surveyed 79 schools in five countries and found a high density of cigarette sellers on the doorsteps of primary and high schools.

School children were also able to buy loose cigarettes and “child-friendly” flavoured cigarettes aimed at encouraging new smokers.

There was also open advertising of cigarettes by shops and hawkers near the schools despite tobacco marketing restrictions in many countries.

“There were 47 cigarette outlets outside a single primary school in Benin,” ATCA executive secretary Deowan Mohee told journalists at the release of the report, ‘Big Tobacco, Tiny targets’ .

Schools in Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Uganda were also surveyed, and at most schools there were outlets selling cigarettes within sight of the schools’ premises.

“The sale, advertising and promotion of cigarettes outside schools is a well-orchestrated strategy of the tobacco companies,” said Mohee. “They are trying to hook school kids in an environment away from their parents where there is peer pressure. They are trying to create a reservoir of replacement smokers.”

According to ATCA research, 21 percent of young African men and 3 percent of women use tobacco products. The World Health Organisation estimates that tobacco smoking will become the leading cause of death on the continent by 2030 unless there is a serious effect to curb the promotion of smoking.

“African governments need to enforce laws banning the sale, advertising and promotion of cigarettes and tobacco products around schools,” said Mohee. – Health-e News.