NGO initiate Tobacco Ban in Africa

A body of Non Governmental Organization under the aegis of Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI) is making a strong demand on the government of Africa to seek ways of controlling tobacco use in the continent. This cautionary warning is a result of increase in deaths resulting from smoking complications.

No fewer than 5.5 million deaths, resulting from complications from smoking occur in 2009 alone, a World Health Organizations´ statistics reveals. A large chunk of the death was recorded in Africa. This has prompted action from civil society groups concerned with Tobacco Control issues in Africa to try and reverse the trend.

Ethiopian Oncologist, Dr. Bogale Solomon offered a simple but practically hard option. “If everybody agrees to stop smoking at once,” he said, “we can reverse the effect in a day.” However, he was equally cognizant of the fact that such a quick solution was easier said than done.

Bogale stated that tobacco has about 50 chemicals that are known carcinogens. “In more than 90 percent of the time,” he said, “lung cancer is induced by tobacco.” He also recalled that several forms of cancer are induced by tobacco. The oncologist underlined the fact that even if the more people are exposed to tobacco chemicals, the more likely that they will be affected by cancer; there is no as such a safe level of exposure to tobacco.

This growing challenge will put pressure on already overstretched public health burden on Africa, which makes it sensible to implore information provision as a persuasive tactics for smokers to quit and for government to take serious actions “Smoking tobacco is not a matter of personal choice, as it affects not only first hand smokers but also others around them.” Says Bogale.

ATCRI´s acting director Mr. Bode Oluwafemi believes that one way to control the use of tobacco and cut smoking related death is a systematic behavioral change approach. “We need to adopt a strategy for dealing with the Tobacco companies. We need to task African government to place a strong regulatory demand on Tobacco importation or production in their various countries….The Tobacco companies must be made to abide by the provision of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which provides for pictorial warning on the packs of cigarette, such warning signals are deliberately omitted in Africa and it is unacceptable” he said.

This strategy seems to be working out with a few success cases. For instance, two States in Nigeria has placed a ban on public smoking. Few weeks ago America´s State of North Carolina joined the league of states´ that have made smoking illegal in public arenas. This is one step forward; another step is to ensure that these legislations are well implemented.

Another strategy proffered by ATCRI is a provision of reliable information on the situation of Tobacco Control in Africa “If we know what the true situation is in each country, it will give us a guide to new approach and strategies” says Mr. Adeola Akinremi, Africa Regional Coordinator for Framework Convention Alliance, an organization that is ensuring that the contents of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is implemented.

At the moment ATCRI with the support of International Development Research Centre, IDRC is gathering useful information that will help develop country-specific intervention for the control of tobacco use African.

Victor Onyema Emeruwa, Americanchronicle
January 22, 2010

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