African campaigners urge enhanced tobacco regulations amid health risks

The manufacturing, sale and consumption of tobacco products in Africa should be regulated in order to limit threats to public health and safety, campaigners said Tuesday.

Leonce Sessou, executive secretary of African Tobacco Control Alliance, stressed that enactment of laws and public education is required to curb unhealthy use of tobacco products like cigarettes in a rapidly urbanizing continent.

Speaking during the virtual launch of Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2021, which was compiled by STOP,(Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products) a global tobacco industry watchdog, Sessou noted that smoking if unregulated could worsen respiratory diseases in Africa.

“The use of tobacco products should be controlled through legislation given their threats to public health in the continent,” said Sessou, noting that smoking has fueled non-communicable diseases in Africa’s growing cities and African countries that have passed robust anti-smoking legislation have reported improved health outcomes among productive segments of the population.

The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2021 that covers 80 countries including several in Africa reveals that multinational firms have used financial inducements to water down anti-smoking laws.

According to the report, the tobacco industry capitalized on pandemic disruptions to lobby governments to dilute legislation meant to curb smoking in order to sustain their profit margins.

“Although governments identified industry interference as a main obstacle to their efforts to implement tobacco control measures, many became vulnerable to the industry’s tactics, succumbed to interference and compromised their policies to protect public health from commercial interests,” says the report.

The report nevertheless lauds several African countries like Uganda and Botswana for erecting legislative firewalls to curb industry tampering in efforts to limit consumption of harmful tobacco products.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, chairperson of the Board of Directors with Africa Tobacco Control Alliance, said the continent has emerged as an untapped market for tobacco products hence the need to establish regulatory safeguards and protect consumers.

He said the launch of the first edition of the Africa Regional Tobacco Industry Interference Index in October served as a wake-up call for governments to protect consumers amid attempts by commercial interests to dilute anti-smoking laws.

Oluwafemi called on African governments to domesticate the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in order to minimize public health risks posed by smoking.

Source: CGTN