Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”
(Moscow, Russia; Geneva, Switzerland and New York, USA) – At the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), World Lung Foundation (WLF) and the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC (the Convention Secretariat) today unveiled a new tool to support graphic warnings for cigarette packs in Africa.
Key stakeholders from governments across Africa are attending COP6, enabling the Convention Secretariat and WLF to promote this new tool to the potential user base. Over 50 images, which were rigorously tested among smokers and non-smokers in Africa and proven to be highly effective, will be available to governments at no cost. Images are accompanied by corresponding text messages available in English and French. WLF and the Convention Secretariat expect the new online database of images and messages – the Africa Graphic Pack Warning Resource – to ease access and to reduce the time and cost for governments to implement effective graphic warnings. Countries such as Burkina Faso, Chad, Kenya, Niger and South Africa are all expected to require such warnings in the next year to fulfill their obligations to the WHO FCTC, a global treaty governing tobacco control.
The images in the database are arranged into three categories: Harms/Cessation, Secondhand Smoke and Socioeconomic Consequences. Each category will also have style options that focus on medical consequences, victims of tobacco use and emotional suffering. WLF tested the images among 1,200 smokers and non-smokers in Senegal and Botswana, seeking images that would score highly on measures that are known to predict effectiveness for encouraging people to quit tobacco use.
Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation said: “Policies like graphic pack warnings act as a vaccine for the tobacco epidemic in that they prompt smokers to quit and keep young people from starting. We acknowledge African governments that are willing to be aggressive in warning citizens about deadly tobacco use. With only three out of forty-seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa currently with graphic pack warnings, we hope the new database will enable governments to skip the steps of sourcing, adapting and testing images that can be effective. We’ve done that work so they don’t have to.”
Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control commented: “Article 11 of the WHO FCTC requires governments – including the Parties to the Convention in Africa – to implement large, rotating health warnings on all tobacco product packaging and labelling. WHO FCTC recommends the use of full-color pictures to communicate the harms of tobacco. The Africa Graphic Pack Warning Resource is a significant step in providing images that have been proven to work in African countries. We encourage African governments to use the Resource to honor their commitments under WHO FCTC and protect the health of their citizens.”
A recent report by the Network of African Science Academies, “Preventing a Tobacco Epidemic in Africa: A Call for Effective Action to Support Health, Social, and Economic Development”, concluded that without concerted action to introduce and enforce tobacco control, smoking prevalence in the African region will increase by nearly 39 percent by 2030, from 15.8 percent in 2010 to 21.9 percent. This is the world’s largest expected regional increase in smoking prevalence by 2030. Similarly, American Cancer Society estimates that the implementation of proven tobacco control policies could prevent 139 million premature deaths in the region by 2100.
Growing economic prosperity has caught the attention of the tobacco industry, which routinely refers to Africa as a growth market, comparatively unencumbered by the tobacco control measures that have helped to decrease smoking prevalence across regions like Europe and North America. This has helped to galvanize the efforts of governments, NGO’s and civil society to legislate in favor of public health and potentially avoid an increase in tobacco-related non-communicable diseases and premature deaths that could hamper Africa’s economic growth.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year—one in ten preventable deaths worldwide. The implementation of more effective pack warnings is one of the main commitments governments have made under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. MPOWER strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.