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Progress in Africa hailed as Momentum Builds in Fight Against Tobacco

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, USA) – World Lung Foundation today congratulated several governments in Africa for moving forward with life-saving tobacco control policies. New policies are near passage or being implemented in Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa.

Significant Progress in Tobacco Control Across Africa in 2014

Earlier this year, the government of Senegal passed a comprehensive tobacco control law, aimed at protecting non-smokers, encouraging current smokers to cut down and quit and dissuading youth from initiating tobacco use. It also includes an increase in tobacco taxes; a commitment to ensuring that the tobacco industry does not interfere with the formulation of health policy; comprehensive smoke-free laws; a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising; the introduction of graphic and text health warnings to cover 70 percent of the front and back of cigarettes packs; a ban on the sale of cigarettes inside and near schools, universities, hospitals, and government buildings; and the ability to prosecute breaches of the laws.

Several countries have advanced tobacco control policies despite the significant challenges posed by tobacco industry interference. Some of the countries where progress has been seen include:

• In January 2014, the government of Niger increased excise duty on tobacco products from 40 percent to 45 percent. Though a small increase, tax and price increases are one of the most effective ways of deterring youth from initiating smoking and encouraging smokers to reduce or quit tobacco use.

• Legislation to ban smoking in public places in Lagos state, Nigeria also passed into law in January 2014. 

• The first national anti-tobacco mass media campaign was launched in The Gambia in February, supported by World Lung Foundation. This follows recent national campaigns in Cameroon, Senegal and Mauritius

• In March 2014, Ethiopia became the most recent African country to ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco control, the global health treaty governing tobacco control measures.

• In April, Namibia began implementing a law banning smoking in public places. In addition, new restrictions will be placed on tobacco advertising and graphic and text warnings will be compulsory on tobacco packaging. 

• In the coming months, Nigeria is expected to pass comprehensive tobacco control laws, similar to those passed in Senegal. A number of countries – including South Africa, Kenya, Chad, and Niger – are expected to introduce graphic pack warnings in the coming months.

Sandra Mullin, Senior Vice President, Policy and Communications, World Lung Foundation said: “While there is still so much more to be done, Africa sees the deadly link between tobacco and an explosion in the incidence of NCDs like cancer and heart disease, and some governments are vaccinating themselves against the tobacco epidemic before it really takes hold. We are pleased to have worked with governments and civil society partners across Africa and commend the progress where it has occurred. In addition to urging and supporting a focus on WHO MPOWER policies that can stem the tide of addiction and death, strong implementation and enforcement of new laws must occur to stop the tobacco epidemic in Africa.”

Prevention is the Critical Strategy in Africa

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. It is the largest expected regional increase globally 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.


 Country Population Legislation/action passed  Legislation/action pending Signed FCTC  Ratified FCTC FCTC entered into force
 Chad  12.45 million    Graphic pack warnings  22/06/2004  30/01/2006 30/04/2006
 Ethiopia  91.73 million  Ratified FCTC  FCTC enters into law  25/02/2004 25/03/2014  23/06/2014
 Gabon        22/08/2003  20/02/2009  12/05/2009
 Gambia 1.791 million Implemented first national anti-tobacco mass media campaign  Increase in tobacco tax  16/06/2003  18/09/2007  17/12/2007
 Kenya  43.18 million  Crackdown on tobacco tax evasion Graphic pack warnings  25/06/2004  25/06/2004  27/02/2005
 Namibia  2.259 million    Comprehensive smoke-free laws; Restrictions on tobacco marketing; Graphic pack warnings  29/01/2004  07/11/2005 05/02/2006
 Niger  17.16 million  Increase the excise duty on tobacco products to the maximum of 45 percent Graphic pack warnings  28/06/2004  25/08/2005  23/11/2005
 Nigeria  168.8 million  (Lagos State – Comprehensive smoke-free laws)  Comprehensive smoke-free laws 28/06/2004  20/10/2005  18/01/2006
 Senegal  13.73 million  Comprehensive smoke-free laws; Increased tobacco taxes; Ban on Tobacco Marketing; Graphic pack warnings; Bans on tobacco sales near schools, universities, hospitals and government buildings; exclusion of tobacco industry from health policy formulation    19/06/2003  27/01/2005 27/04/2005
 South Africa  51.19 million Tobacco tax increase in budget  Graphic pack warning  16/06/2003 19/04/2005  18/07/2005

Research has shown mass media campaigns are one of the most effective means to prompt people to stop smoking. It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. M-P-O-W-E-R strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.