News / Africa

Report Warns Future Smoking Epidemic Among African Youth

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
A new report from the American Cancer Society warned that Africa will face a severe health threat from the fast-growing increase in tobacco use.  The report combines African smoking rates and cigarette consumption with population trends, and found that without aggressive intervention, the continent will experience a significant increase in smoking in the near future. 

The report, “Tobacco Use in Africa: Tobacco Control through Prevention,” reveals that Africa as a region has the smallest number of smokers and smallest rate of tobacco use in the world.  About two percent of all cigarettes are consumed by smokers in Africa, but they make up about six percent of the world’s smokers. 

While the numbers are small for now, Evan Blecher, a Cape Town, South Africa based senior economist for the American Cancer Society said these small numbers also provide the greatest for growth.

“That means along with it will come an increase among tobacco-related, smoking-related diseases in an environment where health systems are already significantly over-stretched because of infectious diseases like malaria and HIV,” said Blecher.

While adult smoking among both among men and women is low in Africa, he pointed out that’s not the case with youth.

“We found that African children smoke at comparable levels, and sometimes even higher than other developing regions of the world, particularly Asia.  What’s driving this is unclear, but it must be because of significantly more aggressive tactics from the tobacco industry itself.  But, also it’s in an environment where children aren’t protected from advertising, marketing… in the way that they are in places like the United States,” explained Blecher. 

In addition he said,--that while smoking rates are lower in Africa than other regions, it doesn’t mean there is no variation in smoking patterns within the continent.

“On the one hand, we’ve got a lot of countries with really low smoking prevalence, like Ghana for instance, or Nigeria,” said Blecher. “And that’s compared to countries of very high smoking prevalence like South Africa or Mauritius, which have prevalence more similar to what we see in the developed world. 

“But, what we do know is that smoking is declining in those markets like South Africa and Mauritius, and increasing in markets like Ghana and Nigeria. 

“These other markets which have smaller smoking prevalence are more concerning to us because these are places with much larger populations, which creates a situation where we expect both the number of smokers and smoking prevalence to increase dramatically over the next generation or two,” explained the senior economist.

Blecher attributes the decline in smoking in countries such as South Africa and Mauritius to very strict tobacco control policies like advertising bans, smoke free areas, and very aggressive tax policies.

“Tax policies are critically important in environments where incomes are growing rapidly, because as incomes grow, everything becomes cheaper and more affordable, including cigarettes.  So you need for tax policies to be able to ensure that tobacco products are not becoming more affordable.  So in a country like South Africa where we’ve seen tax rates increase dramatically over the last 20 years--we’ve also seen smoking prevalence plummet.  Twenty years ago, 33 percent of South African adults smoked, and nowadays only 20 percent of them smoke.  It’s a result of deliberate action, rather than luck,” said Blecher.

There is a broader movement in Africa towards comprehensive tobacco control policies like advertising bans and smoke free areas, be said, but these efforts are not enough.

“Tax policy is something that hasn’t really been pursued by African governments with respect to tobacco, partly because the tax systems aren’t as developed as they are in places like South Africa and Mauritius.  So the technical capacity to implement, enforce and administer tax policies is just not where it needs to be at the moment,” stated Blecher.  


In addition, he said more needs to be done to educate Africans on the dangers of smoking.  While most Americans are aware of the risk of disease and even death caused by smoking, the idea that smoking is harmful is mostly not known in Africa, especially in rural areas. 

As more African countries pursue tobacco control policies, Blecher said people will become more knowledgeable about the harmful effects of smoking. It is not by accident that people in the United States are aware of the dangers of smoking, it is through deliberate action, he said.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs