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About 7m Africans aged 13 to 15 use tobacco – WHO

ABOUT seven million Africans aged 13 to 15 use tobacco, data by The World Health Organisation WHO) show.

A statement by the WHO to commemorate 2024 World No Tobacco Day on May 31, indicates that 11.1 per cent of boys and 7.2 per cent of girls in this age group are active tobacco users.

This was as WHO noted that more than 37 million young people aged 13 to 15 use tobacco globally.

World No Tobacco Day, observed annually on May 31, aims to raise awareness about the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce its consumption. 

This year’s campaign has the themed “Protecting children from tobacco industry interference.”

In her message, the WHO’s Regional Director, Matshidiso Moeti, said the theme is aimed at mobilising international efforts to shield youths from harmful tobacco and nicotine products. 

Moeti quoted the global health organisation’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus,  highlighting that “tobacco use is declining in 150 countries, and there are now 19 million fewer smokers globally than there were two years ago.”

The regional director also disclosed that about 1.3 million people die from second-hand smoke every year, adding that these deaths are entirely preventable. 

“People exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers,” she added.

Tobacco use among adults in Africa declines from 14.9 per cent to 9.5 per cent since 2010

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While speaking on the trends of tobacco usage in the last decades, the WHO Africa regional director, revealed that the prevalence of tobacco use among adults in the region declined from 14.9 per cent in 2010 to 9.5 per cent in 2023. 

According to her, the 2023 WHO Global Report on Trends show that 22 countries in the African region are on track to achieve a 30 per cent reduction by the year 2025 relative to 2010 rates. 

She also stated WHO and other UN agencies and governments supported over 5,000 tobacco farmers in Kenya and Zambia to switch to alternative crops.  

“We also know that the tobacco industry isn’t just in the business of producing, marketing, and selling tobacco products. It also spends considerable time and funds promoting misleading science, lobbying, and performing so-called corporate social responsibility activities.

“These tactics are meant to attract young people and to influence policies to favour its commercial interests over public health.” he said.

WHO advocates more efforts

On addressing the barriers to effective response and protecting Africa’s young people from tobacco use, Moeti said more efforts were still needed to stop the tobacco industry’s relentless efforts to market its products to young people.

She further urged member states in the African region to step up their efforts to protect young people from tobacco industry interference by:

.Ensuring governments honour and abide by their obligations under WHO FCTC Article 5.3 by introducing safeguards to protect tobacco-control policy from tobacco industry interference.



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    .Countering tobacco industry tactics through evidence-based arguments and best practices with full involvement of civil society organisations.

    .Raising awareness among the public on the tactics of the tobacco industry; and

    .Exposing industry efforts to target youth and attract generations of people with addiction through innovative approaches, including marketing new and emerging products and using flavours.

    Moeti added that countries should enforce a 100 per cent ban on public smoking and vaping, and apply excise taxes to reduce consumption.


    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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