Tobacco Industry Targets African Markets
October 9, 2017
"British American Tobacco (BAT) and other multinational tobacco firms have threatened governments in at least eight countries in Africa demanding they axe or dilute the kind of protections that have saved millions of lives in the west, a Guardian investigation has found. ... The giant tobacco firms hope to boost their markets in Africa, which has a fast-growing young and increasingly prosperous population." - The Guardian
Tobacco is the iconic case of the conflict of public health and industry power. With its growth in the 20th century supercharged by advertising, it lost ground to a a broad public health campaign in the last decade of the twentieth century, particularly in the United States. It resisted that campaign with a powerful campaign to dispute scientific data on the health consequences of smoking.
Worldwide, the World Health Organization has led an effect to counter tobacco use, based on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, adopted in 2003, to which 181 countries are parties
But implementation is inconsistent, and the industry is particularly targeting new younger consumers in countries without strong measures to curb the use of tobacco. According to the WHO, "Tobacco use is the leading single preventable cause of death worldwide, killing over 7 million people each year."
In Africa, the WHO-linked Center for Tobacco Control in Africa, based in Kampala, Uganda at the Makerere University School of Public Health, has taken the lead ( http://ctc-africa.org/index.php/company/about-us). But the industry is fighing back, as documented in the lead article excerpted in this issue of AfricaFocus Bulletin. That excerpt is accompanied by a short press release from WHO on their annual tobacco control report, and an open letter in the British Medical Journal Tobacco Control Blog, denouncing the new smokescreen organization launched by Philip Morris International (misleadingly titled "Foundation for a Smoke-free World", see http://tinyurl.com/yb6or524 for more details).
Another rising threat to health in Africa, parallel to that posed by tobacco, is the rapid expansion of fast food consumption, fueled both by multinational corporations and local rivals. See two recent articles:
"Obesity Was Rising as Ghana Embraced Fast Food. Then Came KFC," New York Times, October 2, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/ydhqz46r
"Fast food is fueling an obesity epidemic in Africa," Quartz Africa, October 4, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y9eqhjec