AS Tanzania joins the rest of the world tomorrow to mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), the World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged all governments to implement comprehensive tobacco control policies to save lives and reduce healthcare costs.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in his message to mark the day said the governments should implement tobacco control policies basing on the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
He said tobacco killed half of its users and smokers had a higher risk of severe disease and death if infected with Covid-19.
Dr Moeti explained that in African Region, 94 million men and 13 million women and one in five adolescents used tobacco products.
“Tobacco use is increasing among 13-15-year-old girls and use of tobacco products other than cigarettes is increasing in the region,” he noted.
Dr Moeti added that, every year, 146 000 Africans died from tobacco-related diseases and illnesses related to tobacco use accounted for 3.5 per cent of the annual total health expenditure in the region.
He said to combat tobacco- related illness and deaths, 26 African countries had banned smoking in public places, among them 10 had implemented comprehensive bans.
“Thirty four countries have banned tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. However, in trying to protect their citizens, many governments are confronted with industry threats and legal action to weaken these measures,” Dr Moeti said.
He said to support member states to counter tobacco industry interference, WHO would continue working with partners to debunk myths, expose manipulation tactics and strengthen healthy policies.
Dr Moeti, however, called on young people to join the fight against the tobacco epidemic by encouraging youth groups to start a movement for a tobacco-free generation.
He called upon celebrities and influencers to reject all forms of tobacco industry sponsorship and parents, caregivers and teachers to educate children on the adverse effects of tobacco product use and advocate 100 per cent smoke-free public places and banning all forms of tobacco advertising.
He said with international solidarity, young people could lead the way by becoming the first tobacco-free generation.
Every year on May 31, we commemorate WNTD to highlight the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke and advocate effective policies to save lives.
“This year’s theme is ‘ protecting youth from industry manipulation’ and we are launching a global counter-marketing campaign against the tobacco industry’s aggressive tactics to attract a new generation of customers.”