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February 11th, 2013: Africa: Big Tobacco Has Firm Hold On Africa

Africa: Big Tobacco Has Firm Hold On Africa
11 February 2013

The number of smokers in sub-Saharan Africa will double over the next 12
to 13 years unless anti-smoking policies are adopted.

This is according to a recent article published in Polity that reviewed
various studies into smoking trends and challenges on the continent.

According to the report, South Africa, along with Mauritius and the
Seychelles are model countries on the continent in terms of implementing
smoke-free policies, while countries like Nigeria and Senegal still face
serious challenges in terms of tobacco control.

The report, by Consultancy Africa Intelligence, identified several
challenges faced by the tobacco control community in Africa.

Interference by the tobacco industry was identified as one of the biggest
drivers behind the uptake of smoking on the continent, with reports of
Big Tobacco influencing policy makers and the media in various countries.
“In Senegal the industry has the support of the media which is in favour
of tobacco advertising. In Nigeria, British American Tobacco (BAT) runs
an annual competition for journalists covering the company, and has also
hosted lavish meetings for media executives and journalists, who received
gifts to attend,” reads the report by Patrick Ngassa Piotie. “In Zambia,
BAT used its close relationship with a government minister to shape the
country’s smoke-free laws and dilute proposals for smoke-free

A lack of political will and civil society involvement, coupled with
insufficient financial and human resources further impedes any effort to
control the use of tobacco in many countries.

“Another challenge is conflicting priorities on a continent where the
HIV/AIDS pandemic usually attracts all the available resources. Similar
to lack of funds, there is the issue of corruption of enforcement
officers or inspectors,” reads Piotie’s report.

He also highlights a lack of awareness among the public on the dangers of
exposure to tobacco smoke and the existence of laws which ensure their
protection, or can be misinformed by the tobacco industry through
manipulation of the media.

“There is a crucial need for efficient implementation strategies, along
with proper monitoring and surveillance systems on the one hand; and on
the other, a need for scientific research in order to evaluate the
effectiveness of smoke-free policies in Africa,” Piotie concluded