CAN AFRICA BE 100% SMOKE-FREE IN OUR LIFETIME?
Even as more countries adopt measures such as smoke-free environments and warnings on packaging, the number of smokers continues to grow in Africa. The continent now has over 77 Million smokers, 250,000 of them dying every year from smoking related diseases. Despite the FCTC supported measures, the number of smokers remains stubbornly high. A recently launched W.H.O report on the global tobacco epidemic focuses on offering help to quit, emphasizing the need for Government to offer viable cessation services to smokers to help them quit. African countries have little to no available cessation services, which beg the question; can the continent be 100% smoke-free in our lifetime?
England has an ambitious plan to eradicate smoking by 2030, and I think it might actually work. The government wants to follow Sweden and eradicate smoking altogether. They plan to do so by encouraging safer alternatives to cigarettes. The UK views e-cigarettes as an important replacement therapy for smokers. Sweden’s National smoking rate is at 5%. We can learn from Sweden’s success in cutting the national smoking rate — the biggest lesson being tobacco harm reduction,” not death prevention, could make for the greatest leaps forward in public health.
As the rest of the world continues to reap the benefits of safer alternatives, most smokers in developing countries haven’t got the slightest idea of what these products are or if they even exist. Tobacco control claims they want to rid the continent of cigarettes, but going by the trends, unless new measures are introduced this will be unattainable. We have countries that rely heavily on tobacco farming for their economy (Zimbabwe,Tanzania,Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique). Tobacco farmers must be prepared for an era of reduced demand, if we indeed are trying to eliminate smoking. Alternative crops should be prioritized for these countries.
The only way Africa can go smoke-free in our lifetime is if W.H.O Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s M.P.O.W.E.R policy package intended to assist in the implementation of effective interventions to reduce the demand for tobacco will include these added components ;
M — Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
P — Protect people from tobacco smoke
O- Offer help to quit tobacco use
W- Warn about the dangers of tobacco use
E- Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
R- Raise taxes on tobacco
E- Encourage safer alternatives
D- Deliver honest and accurate information
Why is W.H.O and tobacco allowing millions more to die by rejecting tobacco harm reduction?