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Report: Cancer Risk High as Smoking Surges in Africa


Report: Cancer Risk High as Smoking Surges in Africa

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Medical experts say tobacco-related illnesses are becoming a serious health issue in Africa as a new report warns tobacco use may double in some parts of the continent during the next 12 years. The report, from the Global Smokefree Partnership, warns that 90 percent of people in Africa have no protection against second-hand smoke.

Almost 15 percent of the world's population is in Africa, but right now the continent only accounts for four percent of world smokers.

The Global Smokefree Partnership, an initiative aimed at developing smoke-free policies around the world, says the continent needs to introduce strong smoke-free laws and high taxes on cigarettes in order to keep the number of smokers down and to limit the affects of second-hand smoke.

Antonella Cardone, project manager of the Partnership, says in some parts of Africa governments are taking important steps towards protecting their populations from the affects of tobacco.

"There are several countries now in Africa, which have developed smoke free policies," said Antonella Cardone. "We can definitely mention Niger and Kenya, then Mauritius - those are just a few."

But Cardone says in many African countries citizens still have no protection. Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda are highlighted in the report as countries that are failing to implement smoke-free laws.

Cardone says efforts to put smoke-free laws in place are being hampered by the tobacco industry. She says the industry uses unsavory tactics to convince African governments that tobacco is important to economic activity.

"The population affected by this risk is growing as the tobacco industry now is mainly promoting their product to low and middle income countries," she said.

The report highlights Kenya, where the tobacco industry has made a legal challenge to a strong smoke-free law passed by parliament.

Cardone says while the world focuses on medical crises in Africa such as AIDS and malaria, little attention is paid to the cancer risks caused by tobacco.

"It is the first health risk causing death that is preventable," said Cardone.

According to the Tobacco Atlas, published by the World Lung Foundation and American Cancer Society, 10 percent of the world's population smokes. It says if current trends hold tobacco will kill a billion people this century - that is 10 times the number it took in the 20th century.