I would say that most people would probably be able to guess that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world – directly responsible for about 5 of the 50 odd million deaths that occur in the world every year. A lot of people, in particular anyone who has ever traveled to China, could probably guess that there are more smoking related deaths in the developing world than in the developed (more people and high rates of smoking) – and that smoking rates are growing fast.

 But did you know that the region with the fastest growing rates of smoking is Africa? I didn’t until I read this excellent report in the Lancet by Adele Baleta about Africa’s struggle against smoking.

In most instances, we would generally think think that a rapidly growing economy leads to higher incomes, better social services, and thus overall better health. But smoking happens to be one of those cases where rising incomes, which brings higher purchasing power, actually leads to worse health seeking behavior as people spend more and more of their wealth cigarettes. The rapid economic growth seen in many African countries over the past decade has meant that more and more Africans are now lighting up and becoming addicted to tobacco.

While a few countries have been forward thinking on this issue and implemented some form of tobacco control legislation, overall implementation and regulation of regulations have been lagging in the region – currently 90% of Africans are unprotected by smoke-free laws. According to a report by the Global Smokefree Partnership, the biggest obstacle to implementation of stronger anti-tobacco legislation is not weak government, lack of political will, or income but rather agressive efforts from multi-national tobacco companies.

It has now been 5 years since the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s (FCTC) went into effect and it is sad to see that progress towards implementing this landmark agreement has been so slow at this particular point in time. Kudos to the Lancet for publishing this great piece of global health reporting.

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4 Responses to “Africa is the fastest growing market for cigarettes”

  1. Brendan says:

    I wonder what component of the increase in smoking is due to lax government policy. I remember being at a local concert in Senegal a few years ago. Cigarette companies had sponsored the show and they were throwing out cigarettes to the crowd, among other publicity stunts. Such a thing would surely not be allowed in most European countries, I'd imagine.

  2. Karen Grepin says:

    I am sure it is a part of it – I have seen medical doctors wearing shirts with cigarettes on them at work…

    Part of the WHO framework on tobacco control was to help establish guidelines for some of these threats, but clearly it is not enough.

  3. Jewish Treatment says:

    Very sad,, going through your post.. i may predict that more patients heart and lungs cancer diseases will be in africe..????

  4. kennyken says:

    This is an outrage in my opinion.Africa needs alot of things in it's developing countries and cigarettes is definatley not one of them. In recent years the powers that be have had their eye on Africa for various economic reasons.Dealing with the AIDS epidemic,food and water shortages, and lack of health care,I guess marketing Africa for cigarettes is really killing them softly or should I say fast.

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