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Sunday, June 23, 2024

WHO calls for ban on smoking and vaping in public in Africa

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World Health Organization (WHO) regional director Matshidiso Moeti has called for a complete ban on public smoking and the use of e-cigarettes and vaping in all African countries.

This is contained in a statement issued by the organization on Friday on World No Tobacco Day 2024, the theme of which is: “Protecting children from tobacco industry interference.”

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Ms Moeti said African countries must implement strict measures to protect children from the use of tobacco and nicotine products.

According to her, the tobacco industry is designing marketing strategies aimed at attracting younger generations to smoking and nicotine addiction.

“As tobacco use continues to decline among adults, the tobacco industry has diversified its arsenal to attack and subvert any strong tobacco control efforts and has been seeking to expand its portfolio, adding new markets for tobacco and tobacco products. of nicotine. The industry uses marketing strategies for new products specially designed to attract young people,” she said.

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Some of these products are electronic cigarettes, flavored products, smokeless tobacco, snacks and pouches. He noted that they promote themselves aggressively through social media.

“This shows that more efforts are still needed to stop the tobacco industry’s tireless efforts to market its products to young people.”

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What does the data say?

According to Matshidiso, there is an increase in nicotine consumption among young people around the world.

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He said that globally, more than 37 million young people between the ages of 13 and 15 use tobacco, while in Africa, around 7 million people between the ages of 13 and 15 use tobacco.

He also noted that an estimated 1.3 million people die each year from secondhand smoke.

“These deaths are totally preventable. “People exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers.”

Meanwhile, the prevalence of tobacco use among adults in the region has decreased from 14.9 percent in 2010 to 9.5 percent in 2023.

The WHO Global Trends Report 2023 shows that 22 countries in the African region are on track to achieve a 30 percent reduction by 2025 relative to 2010 rates.

The regional director said: “We know that young people in the region are exposed to tobacco products through extensive social media campaigns and streaming platforms, as well as the use of social media influencers to promote tobacco products. among young people covertly.

“This represents a significant threat to their health and well-being. We also know that the tobacco industry is not only dedicated to producing, marketing and selling tobacco products.

“It also spends considerable time and funds promoting misleading science, lobbying, and conducting so-called corporate social responsibility activities. “These tactics are intended to appeal to young people and influence policy to favor their business interests over public health.”

What African countries should do

As a result, Ms Moeti has urged countries to accelerate the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), with strict measures on the marketing of new and emerging tobacco and nicotine products, especially designed to attract to young people.

He called for countries to implement high excise taxes and pricing measures to reduce tobacco consumption.

It also called for the implementation of effective measures to communicate health risks through graphic health warnings to populations, including children and young people.

She said: “I urge our member states in the African region to step up their efforts to protect young people from tobacco industry interference by ensuring that governments meet and fulfill their obligations under Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC through the introduction of safeguards to protect tobacco control policies against interference by the tobacco industry.

“Counter the tactics of the tobacco industry through arguments based on evidence and best practices with the full participation of civil society organizations.

“Raise public awareness about the tactics of the tobacco industry; and expose the industry’s efforts to target youth and engage generations of people with addiction through innovative approaches, including the marketing of new and emerging products and the use of flavors.

“In an innovative move to counter the rise in tobacco leaf production, WHO and other UN agencies and governments have supported more than 5,000 tobacco farmers in Kenya and Zambia to switch to alternative crops.”

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