Tobacco Smoking in Africa A Rising Health Concern, Particularly Amongst Youths

May 29, 2016 at 07:00 am | Lifestyle

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

May 29, 2016 at 07:00 am | Lifestyle

A young boy smoking. Photo: Feisal Omar/Reuters

Despite numerous measures to curb Tobacco smoking in Africa, this deadly epidemic is still on the rise and continues to claim thousands of lives every year across the continent, according to the World Health Organization.

Market observers believe that most foreign cigarette manufacturers are now shifting their focus to the African market following the ban of tobacco advertising in most Western countries, which explains why most African countries are experiencing substantial growth in tobacco consumption, according to BBC.

In a report titled ‘Tobacco Use Data WHO Region’ released in 2015, WHO estimates that at least 24 percent of African males aged 15 years use tobacco related products. This trend poses severe health risks to the continent since these young people are the future of Africa.

The American Cancer Society has also warned that the steady increase in tobacco smoking in Africa is a glaring health threat to the continent. In a study done in 2013, the American Cancer Society found that, without urgent intervention, the African continent faces a serious health threat, particularly since its health systems are already overstretched.

According to WHO, tobacco smoking causes at least 5 million deaths globally every year and continues to drain Africa’s already disadvantaged public health sectors given that the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses continues to grow.

Corrective Measures

Many African countries have come up with stringent measures aimed at discontinuing the fast-growing tobacco smoking epidemic.

In Kenya, for example, the government has increased taxation on tobacco sales, which has consequently seen the prices of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products go up steadily, and the government hopes this will motivate smokers to quit.

Other African countries such as Tanzania, Ghana, and Mauritius have adopted a similar approach and further ratified the tobacco control treaty adopted by the World Health Organization in 2003.

The treaty aims to scale up global efforts towards total control of tobacco consumption. It covers six main areas: monitor tobacco consumption and control policies, implement smoke free legislations, assist smokers to quit, create awareness about dangers of tobacco smoking, ban cigarette advertisements, and increase taxation on tobacco.

To further discourage people from smoking, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have banned smoking in public places. One can only smoke in demarcated smoking zones. Violation of these laws comes with hefty fines that sometimes run into hundreds of thousands.

Cigarette manufacturers in most African countries are now required to put prominent health warnings and messages on their tobacco packets. Retailers are also prohibited from selling cigarettes and other tobacco-related products to minors.

While these measures may have led to a significant decline in tobacco smoking in Africa, the epidemic is still a major cause for concern; perhaps an indication that more still needs to be done to arrest the situation.

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