Experts weigh in on the use of tobacco in African communities.
Tobacco use and related illness are a growing problem among women and girls in Africa, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa director Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
An estimated 13million women in 37 sub-Saharan countries use tobacco in various ways, including snuff, which is common in South Africa.
Moeti, who was speaking at the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, said the enforcement of existing tobacco control laws was not progressing fast enough to reduce the growing problem among women and girls.
About 22000 African women die from tobacco every year, while globally 1.5million women die every year from tobacco use.
Moeti said two out of three deaths from second-hand smoke in Africans occur among women. “It may sound like a small number, but the concern here is that it is growing and we need to cease the opportunity to stop this trend from growing.”
Another upward trend was tobacco use by teenage girls, with about 13% usage on the continent.
According to the WHO, there are a billion smokers in the world and 200million of them are women.
It says the tobacco industry aggressively targets women to increase its consumer base and to replace puffers who quit or die prematurely from cancer, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema or other tobacco-related diseases.
Moeti said governments of the region need to start implementing gender-sensitive policies that include a focus on women’s rights, and in the context of comprehensive tobacco control.
Only 11 African countries have implemented effective tobacco taxes. “We need to recognise the very active role of the tobacco industry, which regards the region as virgin territory to be exploited, if you look at tobacco-use rates in the African region compared to other regions,” she added.
Deaths from tobacco in the low- and middle-income countries are projected to double between 2002 and 2030. A WHO survey on youth-smoking trends shows that more girls than boys smoke in the false belief that it is a good way to control weight.
Department of Health director-general Precious Matsoso says South Africa’s pattern of tobacco use is different among different social groups.
There are different cultural and ethnic norms that play a role in the use of tobacco, and older women in the low-income rural group commonly sniff tobacco instead of smoking it. -Health-e News
AUTHOR: Health-e News