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AFRO-NETS> Tobacco Firms Busily Enticing New African Smokers

  • Subject: AFRO-NETS> Tobacco Firms Busily Enticing New African Smokers
  • From: Robert Weissman <rob@essential.org>
  • Date: Mon, 31 May 1999 01:31:09 -0400 (EDT)

Tobacco Firms Busily Enticing New African Smokers
Source: TOBACCO-List

by Peter Masebu, PANA Correspondent SENEGAL;
Date: Saturday, 5/29/99

DAKAR, Senegal (PANA) - Khady is not a football fan but she attends
weekend football league matches at Dakar's Leopold Sedar Senghor sta-
dium, where she distributes free cigarettes made by her tobacco com-

Interestingly, most of those who accept the "poisoned" present are
youths. These would likely have seen the cigarette brand's advertise-
ments, which abound in the Senegalese dailies and elsewhere.

Lately, tobacco firms have also erected beautiful retail selling sta-
tions at busy strategically located bus stops and other places in the
seaside Senegalese capital.

Khady's work does not always end at the stadium if there is a big con-
ference taking place in Dakar that weekend. As part of vigorous market-
ing, her company ensures that she sells the silent killer to delegates
addicted to tobacco, a known or probable cause of some 25 diseases.

The graceful 19-year old Khady does not smoke, but takes offence when
someone tries to interfere in her work. At a football match one day,
she rebuked a journalist who called her "the merchant of death" for en-
ticing young smokers to join the 1.1 billion who were already using to-
bacco in the world at the beginning of the 1990s.

Out of these, says the World Health Organisation (WHO), 800 million
were in developing countries compared with 300 million in developed

In documents issued ahead of this year's World No-Tobacco Day on Mon-
day, the WHO has expressed serious concern that smokers in most Third
World countries are not informed about how it is almost impossible to
quit smoking after being addicted to nicotine, the powerful additive
contained in tobacco.

While advertising tobacco during sports events is common in Dakar be-
cause tobacco companies are their major sponsors, there is no attempt
to disclose the dangers posed by the chemical additives like nicotine,
as happens in developed countries like the United States.

WHO says that nicotine is the most powerful additive, which chains
smokers to tobacco for life, causing lung cancer, bronchitis and emphy-
sema as well as raising the prospect of cardiac diseases. Those who in-
hale the cigarette smoke involuntarily are faced with the same risks.

Maternal smoking is associated with miscarriages, lower birth-weight of
babies and inhibited child development while parental smoking is also a
factor in sudden infant death syndrome and respiratory illnesses, in-
cluding bronchitis, colds and pneumonia in children.

Asked why the number of smokers keeps rising in Senegal and other Afri-
can countries, a medical practitioner who spoke on the condition of
anonymity said: "The issue is that most governments keep a blind eye to
advertising because the more cigarettes the companies sell the more tax
they pay. Consequently, the tobacco firms have become even more aggres-
sive, erecting selling posts all over and advertising at will."

To reverse this trend, the WHO Director General, Dr Gro Harlem
Brundtland, says in her No-Tobacco Day message that: "Getting more
smokers to quit is the key to reducing the projected tobacco-related
deaths over the next two decades."

WHO estimates that from 1950 to 2000, "tobacco will have killed more
than 60 million people in developed countries alone, more than died in
World War II."

It adds that "if current trends continue, 500 million people alive to-
day will be killed by tobacco."

The UN health agency is urging governments to start reducing that by
banning tobacco advertising and promotion, the sale of cigarettes to
children and to impose health warnings on all tobacco products.

"This might be very difficult because tobacco firms are running away
from the developed world to Africa and the Third World in order to es-
cape those stringent rules," said the anonymous Senegalese medical doc-

To enable addicted smokers willing to quit the habit, WHO is urging
governments to provide cost-effective treatment, including nicotine
gums, patches, nasal spray and inhalers as well as non-nicotine medi-
cines such as bupropion.

WHO is also encouraging governments to prevent involuntary inhaling of
tobacco by establishing smoke-free public places and working places.

"I think this is possible because it is increasingly becoming a reality
on most passenger planes, even in Africa," said the Senegalese doctor,
who doubted the likelihood of African governments embracing these sug-
gestions because of economic and employment concerns.

Nonetheless, while governments hesitate to take bold steps to ensure
the tobacco industry takes the health aspect more seriously, nicotine
addiction and tobacco-related death toll will continue rising, albeit
silently, with people like Khady playing her part in the process.

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