The fight against tobacco in Africa is progressing without reducing its consumption.

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AA / Alphonse LOGO

On May 31, the whole world commemorates the International No Tobacco Day.

By establishing this day, the United Nations wanted to “emphasize the negative effects of tobacco production and consumption on health, society, economy and the environment” once a year.

And this year the global priority is the environment. Hence the theme “Tobacco: a threat to our environment”.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this theme aims to “highlight the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from cultivation, production and distribution to the toxic waste it generates.”

It has been chosen correctly, according to Léonce Sessou, tobacco expert and executive director of the Alliance for Tobacco Control in Africa (ACTA), a network of more than 120 non-governmental organizations from 39 African countries. consumption, tobacco severely destroys the environment in Africa”.

In an interview by Anadolu Agency, he argues that tobacco not only threatens the achievement of the SDG 3, which emphasizes health and well-being, but also “threatens Africa’s potential to reach SDG 14 (life under water) and SDG”. . 15 (life on land) through their impact on the environment”.

– Tobacco has a disastrous effect on the environment

“The environmental impacts associated with tobacco farming are manifested in particular by overuse of water, a scarce resource in much of the continent, large-scale deforestation and pollution of air and water,” says WHO.

Unfortunately, it is clear that in 2022, 35 years after the First World Tobacco Day, tobacco leaf production has increased even more on the continent.

“Africa has seen an increase in tobacco leaf production and has now reached 12% of international production,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, on the eve of World Tobacco Day, 30 May 2022. .

In 2018, this African share was 6.3 million tons, or 11.4% of world production, which was 722,187 tons.

Also, according to current figures, 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries (especially in Africa). Similarly, the burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality is the heaviest.

According to the World Health Organization, it kills nearly half of all tobacco users. It kills more than 8 million people worldwide each year, of which approximately 1.2 million non-smokers are unwittingly exposed to smoke. More than 80% of tobacco-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

— Too many young people use tobacco

Despite these alarming numbers, it is clear that more and more young people in Africa are consuming tobacco in various forms.

“One in 10 African youth smokes tobacco,” says the World Health Organization.

He says the UN agency has been attracted by “new products that have emerged in recent years”, such as electronic nicotine inhalers and tobacco products.

The “new fashions” as explained by Léonce Sessou, young Africans remained “the privileged target of tobacco manufacturing companies”.

“It has become fashionable in Lomé to expose young people to the consequences of tobacco in small groups on street corners, for example, by smoking chicha,” Anadolu Agency says on the microphone. NGO Vie Libre et Positive. He states that an NGO that has been leading the fight against smoking in Togo for over two decades is in the ghettos.

“Smoking a hookah is 50 to 200 puffs for 40 to 60 minutes. And the density of carbon monoxide is 15-50 cigarettes. Even for tar we go from 27 to 102 cigarettes. Already in the investigation we had to do in Ouagadougou, we know that there is hepatitis C, that there is a real risk for tuberculosis and other tobacco-related diseases, cancers and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. “, says doctor Georges Ouédraogo, quoted by RFI in one of their publications. He is coordinator of the Smoking Cessation Unit and lecturer in pneumology at CHU Yalgado Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou.

— The fight against tobacco is advancing, but … beware of an explosion in 2025

This is the case, and Léonce Sessou admits that the fight against tobacco on the continent has indeed “made progress in recent years.”

And as evidence, at least 24 of the 44 countries that have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in the African Region have “prohibited smoking in public” and 35 have “prohibited all tobacco advertising and all promotion and sponsorship”.

“The positive thing in Togo, as in many African countries, is the disappearance of billboards and tobacco-manufacturing companies sponsoring sporting events,” says Linus Kokou Gbodono.

Consequently, and whatever the case, it is important to recognize that Africa stands out globally for its young population and low smoking rate estimated at 21% among males in 2022.

A report by the World Health Organization in 2017, which estimated the number of smokers in Africa at 77 million, fears that “by 2025, these figures will increase by about 40% compared to 2010.”

In fact, if nothing is done by 2025, Sessou added, the Boom is just observable.

— Solution approaches

Therefore, she recommends that this World No Tobacco Day “be an opportunity for all Africans to come together and claim their right to a healthy environment.”

We set out by demanding that “multinational tobacco companies be held responsible for the environmental problems we face today and that they pay the necessary price for their repairs”.

Consider turning them off, according to him that might be the price.

“We must stop seeing these companies as contributors to our economies. They cannot be part of the problem and solution. These companies are destroying our entire home, which is just the environment. Losses on all fronts are estimated at billions of dollars a year,” Sessou said.

For its part, Gbodono calls for greater awareness and more tools to reverse the curve.

“When I talk about raising awareness, I mean it has to be permanent on the field. Working with all social strata. This requires resources. Our states should not resign on this issue. We hear a cry of alarm. Social welfare also goes through this,” he said.

On this World No Tobacco Day, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti urges African governments to impose “environmental taxes on tobacco in its entire value chain and supply, including production, processing, distribution, sale, consumption and waste management”.

“For tobacco producing countries, I fully implement WHO’s support to help farmers switch to other crops,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

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