News / Africa

Senegal Sounds Warnings about Smoking

Jennifer Lazuta
As the number of smokers continues to rise in Africa, the World Health Organization warns that smoking - and smoking-related diseases - could become a major epidemic in the region.  The region’s first-ever national campaign on the dangers of tobacco use was launched Tuesday.
 
Senegal’s Ministry of Health and Social Action, along with the World Lung Foundation, has officially launched an eight-week, mass-media campaign that will attempt to educate the public on the dangers of smoking. 
 
The campaign, which is known as “Sponge,” will graphically depict the dangers of tobacco use on TV, radio, and billboards, as well as send information via text message to the citizens of Senegal. 
 
Rebecca Perl is the associate director of the World Lung Foundation.  She said that the campaign will not only empower people to quit or avoid smoking, but will also encourage the government to pass policies that protect citizens from the dangers of tobacco. 
 
“These mass media campaigns are really critical because they basically educate the public as to the dangers of smoking.  I think people say they know abstractly, that yeah, cigarettes are bad for you, smoking is bad for you, but they don’t know how bad.  They don’t know really what it will do and how many people [it will affect], and what the consequences are and how the consequences look, which is extremely horrifying," she said. 
 
According to the latest figures by the American Cancer Society, tobacco consumption rose 57 percent in Africa between 1997 and 2009. 
 
In Senegal, it is estimated that 11 percent of citizens currently use tobacco products, and that almost 48 percent of Senegalese youth are exposed to secondhand smoke within their homes.
 
In neighboring countries, such as Ivory Coast, consumption is nearly 20 percent.
 
While these numbers aren’t as high as they are in some other countries, Perl said that as the tobacco industry continues to increase its advertising in Africa and takes advantage of the lack of cigarette regulation in the region, these numbers are set to “skyrocket.” 
 
“Unfortunately, the successes that the West has had on tobacco control, has come, at some extent, to the detriment of the southern part of the world because they move markets.  So in Africa, the tobacco companies see there’s more opportunity for growth and they come in to advertise their products and get people addicted to cigarettes, which is an extremely bad thing, because the last thing any country needs is an epidemic of cancer and heart disease and lung disease - and that’s what you get with tobacco," she said. 
 
Rachel Kitonyo is the program director for the Africa Tobacco Control Consortium Project.  She said that a graphic anti-smoking campaign is key to preventing what she calls the "imminent" tobacco epidemic. 
 
“We say a picture speaks a thousand words.  Well, we still have high levels of illiteracy in Africa.  And so when you look at the kind of warnings we are putting on cigarette packets in Africa - tiny letters on the side of the packet - who’s watching that?  So when you have graphic pictures, one look at that is enough to get someone to think," she said. 
 
Advocacy groups say that in addition to the awareness campaign, they are also hoping to pass anti-smoking laws in all public places within Senegal and raise taxes on cigarettes. 
 
In Senegal, a pack of cigarettes currently costs just over $1.
 
Dr. Abdoul Aziz Kasse is the president of Senegal’s League Against Tobacco.  He said that raising the price of cigarettes in any country is one of the most effective ways of controlling smoking.
 
He says 50 years of research has shown that we can significantly reduce tobacco consumption among young people and the poor by raising the taxes.  He says not only will this discourage smoking, but it will raise money for the government to invest in health care programs.  
 
Anti-tobacco legislation is currently under review in Senegal’s National Assembly.  Representatives say they are working to pass it quickly, but so far, no action has been taken.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid