Africa - the increase in tobacco use must be prevented..

December 14, 2009 - According to the report, “Global Voices: Rebutting the Tobacco Industry, Winning Smokefree Air,” nearly 90 percent of people on the African continent are without meaningful protection from secondhand smoke. The report noted that it was worrisome that Africa, which accounted for 14 percent of the world’s population, had just four percent of the world’s smokers today. Despite the infinitesimal[small] percentage of the world’s smokers on the continent, the report noted that African nations would soon undergo the highest increase in the rate of tobacco use among developing countries, “with more than half the continent expected to double its tobacco use within 12 years if current trends continue.”

“If we don’t act now on tobacco control in Africa, millions of lives will be lost because tobacco is now becoming an issue in Africa,” Tom Glynn of the Global Smokefree Partnership told the Agence France Presse.

“For the first time in history, we have the tools in hand to prevent a pandemic." Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

Closely related recent reports: Africa - can a tobacco-related cancer epidemic be prevented - International Cancer Conference in Tanzania - November 11-14, 2009..;
AORTIC- seventh international conference on the burden of cancer in Africa...

Despite the gloomy picture, the report noted that many African countries were resisting tobacco industry’s aggressive efforts to stop governments from putting in place smoke-free laws. To back up its claim, the report observed that Kenya and Niger had enacted national smoke-free policies within the last year, and South Africa, which had been smoke-free since March 2007, still played a major role on the continent. The South Africa’s inspiring role, the report added, was an indication that smoke-free laws could work on the continent.

“In a first for the region, Mauritius recently passed a law that is close to meeting the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control standards, ranking among the strongest anti-smoking measures in the world,” the report stated.

But it said implementation remained a challenge in many places such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Uganda, adding that “barriers include identifying resources for implementation, and tobacco industry opposition to smoke-free laws.”

For instance, a Lagos, Nigeria - based lawyer, Mr. Fred Agbaj, regretted that since anti-smoking law was passed in 1990, Nigerian law enforcement agencies were yet to arrest and prosecute any violator. Only one percent of Nigeria’s over 140 million people are protected by strong smoke-free laws.

Reference: Anti-smoking law: Only 1% of Nigerians are protected by smoke-free laws —Report by Waheed Bakare, PUNCH - Nigeria' Most Widely Read Newspaper., 12/11/2009.