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Empower communities to fight tobacco industry – WHO

By Fatumah Nalwanga

Added 11th March 2018 09:23 AM

African health ministries were urged to focus on controlling tobacco advertisement in their nations

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African health ministries were urged to focus on controlling tobacco advertisement in their nations

PIC: Michael Bloomberg (second-left) and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arriving for the opening ceremony in South Africa. (Courtsey photo)


As Africa focuses more on integration into different economic agendas with several investors from across the world, little attention has been paid to the fast advancing tobacco industry.

The industry has predominantly shifted its target from developed countries to developing countries.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), urged African governments to empower communities to fight against the approaching common enemy-tobacco use in Africa, through investing in primary healthcare.

“All governments should invest in primary healthcare to increase awareness in communities, empower the local people and give them community ownership. Teach them that tobacco affects individuals, economies and all government sectors,” he said.

Ghebreyesus made the remarks during the 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health that was held in Cape Town-South Africa recently. 

He called upon African ministries of health to focus on controlling tobacco advertisement in their nations.

“The tobacco industry has realised that it is increasingly becoming hard to advertise and survive in developed countries due to the high levels of literacy. So, they  have shifted and started heavy advertisement in low-income countries, especially in Africa, where there are high illiteracy levels,” Ghebreyesus said.

At the same function, which attracted journalists from over 100 countries, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the South African health minister, thanked WHO for honouring Africa to host the conference.

“We are greatly honoured as Africans to host this 17th conference after 50 years of its existence. This has set the pace to fight and defeat the tobacco industry and its intentions against the African continent,” Motsoaledi said.

Ghebreyesus and Michael Bloomberg, the WHO global ambassador for non-communicable diseases, have equally announced the creation of a move named STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products). This will work as a global tobacco watchdog that will aggressively monitor deceptive tobacco industry tactics and practices to undermine public health. It will as well create awareness through data collection and public reporting.

The conference, which ran under the them “Uniting the World For a Tobacco Free Generation”, recognises that international collaboration is vital for tackling tobacco use. Tobacco remains the world’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than seven million people each year.

The conference attracted more than 2,000 delegates, including researchers, scientists, UN, civil society representatives, healthcare professionals and world policymakers.


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