IILA C.E.O Statement
Press Conference, 8th March, 2018
Launch of the Tobacco Atlas (6th edition)
World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH), Capetown, South Africa.
- Africa is at a crossroads: Tobacco prevalence is still low in many countries and the number of smokers (around 77 million) is also low compared to other regions.
- But tobacco consumption is growing faster in Africa than in any other region, except the Eastern Mediterranean.
- Without strong and rapid intervention, cigarette consumption will increase and there will be nearly 600 million smokers in Africa by 2100.
- Big tobacco has targeted Africa, drawn by the continent’s growing population, our many young people (we have the ten youngest countries in the world by average age!), and perhaps most of all, our rapid economic growth in many countries. [THERE IS A SLIDE FOR THIS THEME]
- We should celebrate this economic development, but we need to understand that it has some darker consequences – like people spending their new-found income on things that are very bad for them and their families, such as tobacco products.
- The industry markets its products aggressively, and interferes in tobacco control policy across the continent.
- In Kenya, for example, it took more than 10 years to get a comprehensive tobacco control legislation due to the industry’s interference in the legislative process. Ten years after its enactment, a legal challenge at the supreme court of Kenya prevents effective implementation of regulations developed to enhance enforcement of the law. This pattern of interference is replicated in Uganda, South Africa and many other countries in the continent
- In some countries, this interference has led to substantial increases in prevalence.
- In Congo, prevalence was projected to increase from 5.8% in 2001 to 22.3% in 2015
- In Lesotho, it was projected to increase from 16.5% in 2001 to 26.8% in 2015
- Unfortunately, not enough governments are taking action— 93% of countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not implemented tobacco use monitoring at best practice level.
- In my experience, this is typically due to, amongst other challenges, limited human and financial resources for tobacco control programming, lack of political will and low prioritization of tobacco control in the overall development agenda for countries
- Governments must act now while we can still prevent a lot of this disease and death.
- Encouragingly, governments in some countries are taking many of the right steps.
- Over ten years ago in my country, despite aggressive industry interference, we introduced comprehensive tobacco control legislation.
- This is having a markedly positive effect on public health
- Marketing of tobacco products has reduced significantly
- Fewer people are smoking and consumption is declining.
- Uganda has introduced a comprehensive tobacco control legislation with strong protections against exposure to tobacco smoke
- In Ghana and Madagascar, they have introduced bans on tobacco marketing to considerably positive effect for public health – Madagascar – thanks to their tobacco control efforts, have experienced a drop in prevalence from 10.5 to 5.6%.
- 4 countries have introduced graphic warning labels: Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Kenya, and Madagascar.
- Tobacco taxes is known to be one of the most effective interventions for tobacco control
- South Africa has traditionally been a leader in tobacco control on the continent—especially on tobacco taxes – and has been able to drive down consumption and prevalence.
- As we saw in Nigar’s slide a few minutes ago, the change in price over time in South Africa, much of it driven by tobacco tax increases… contributed to marked declines in consumption and prevalence
- YET, tobacco taxation is hardly used in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- It is a huge opportunity to affect public health and even to raise a little more revenue as they did in the Philippines, which dedicated the revenue to covering universal health coverage for the most vulnerable.
- To fight the industry, let me share with you what organizations like the International Institute of Legislative Affairs do… :
- We keep TRACK of what the tobacco industry is doing and fight it at every step- recently we have found a history of their interference in tobacco tax policy dating back to the early 1990’s. We are also keeping track of the industry’s actions in the judiciary as the legal challenge proceeds to the Supreme court
- We call them out on their bad behavior- we are not afraid to NAME and SHAME
- We don’t let them get around marketing bans- and when they do, we EXPOSE them
- We speak out when reports show that they bribe officials.
- Don’t let it spread myths, like the myth that tobacco control hurts tobacco farmers (it doesn’t!) or that higher taxes will increases illicit trade (again, it doesn’t and Kenya’s comprehensive track and trace system has proven that). We COUNTER their myths with evidence, from our own country, and from around the world!
- Tobacco control advocates in Africa and around the world have a lot to learn from each-other and tools like The Atlas are invaluable.
- We can spread best practices across Africa and save lives.
- We also need you, the media, to help us shine a light on the harm caused by this deadly product and the underhand tactics of an industry that profits from the suffering of the poor and vulnerable.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!