Why tobacco business thrives in Africa — WHO

THE World Health Organization (WHO) has said the tobacco industry is flourishing in Africa due to regulatory lapses.

The agency said while the number of people using tobacco products decreased in other parts of the world, it rose in Africa.

According to the WHO, tobacco users in the African Region increased from an estimated 64 million adult users in 2000 to 73 million in 2018.

It attributed the rise partly to the increased production of tobacco products and aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry.

In a message to commemorate 2023 World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, May 31, WHO Africa Region Director Matshidiso Moeti, a doctor, said the solution to the crisis was for tobacco farmers to switch to planting food crops.

This year’s ‘World No Tobacco Day’ theme is ‘Grow Food, Not Tobacco’. The theme aims to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops. 

The theme also seeks to expose the tobacco industry’s efforts to interfere with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops, thereby worsening the global food crisis, Matshidiso said.

She explained that the tobacco epidemic was one of the biggest public health challenges facing the world, killing more than eight million people yearly.

“Tobacco growing and production exacerbates nutrition and food insecurity. Tobacco farming destroys ecosystems, depletes soil fertility, contaminates water bodies and pollutes the environment. Any profits from tobacco as a cash crop may not offset the damage to sustainable food production in low- and middle-income countries.

“Nearly 828 million people are facing hunger globally. Of these, 278 million (20 per cent) are in Africa. In addition, 57.9 per cent of people in Africa suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity. This jeopardizes the region’s attainment of SDG 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”

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The WHO chief argued that the world faced a grave challenge in food and nutrition security imposed by the increasing tobacco farming in Africa Region. 

“Available data shows that the area under tobacco cultivation decreased by 15.7 per cent globally. In Africa, it increased by 3.4 per cent from 2012 to 2018.   

“During this period, tobacco leaf production globally reduced by 13.9 per cent; however, it increased by 10.6 per cent in Africa. In recent years, tobacco cultivation has shifted to Africa because of a regulatory environment that is more favourable to the tobacco industry and increasing demand for tobacco.”

Meanwhile, the agency said three African countries, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, were already supporting their farmers to shift from tobacco farming to other crops. It appealed to other countries in the region to offer similar aid to their farmers.




     

     

    The WHO also urged tobacco-growing countries to step up the implementation of Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) by enacting legislation, developing and implementing suitable policies and strategies, and enabling market conditions for tobacco farmers to shift to growing food crops that would provide them and their families with a better life while enhancing the protection of the environment and the health of their people.

    In June 2022, The ICIR reported how the Nigerian government began a new tax regime on tobacco products to reduce tobacco product marketing.

    In 2021, The ICIR published a report accusing British American Tobacco of bribing African and other leaders to undermine public health.

    Earlier, in 2019, this organisation reported how Nigeria was not doing enough to reduce tobacco use.

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    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

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