World No Tobacco Day: The Substance, and its Economic Impact in Africa 

World No Tobacco Day: The Substance, Its Effect and Economic Impact in Africa (News Central TV)

Every year on May 31, the world commemorates World No Tobacco Day (WNTD). This annual event educates the public about the dangers of smoking, tobacco companies’ business practices, what the World Health Organisation (WHO) is doing to combat tobacco use, and what people all over the world can do to assert their right to health and a healthy lifestyle, as well as to protect future generations.

In 1987, the WHO’s Member States established World No Tobacco Day to raise global awareness of the tobacco pandemic and the unnecessary death and disease it causes.

The day is also intended to raise awareness about the widespread use of tobacco and its harmful health effects, which cause more than 8 million deaths worldwide each year, including 1.2 million fatalities among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke.

Governments, public health organisations, smokers, growers, and the tobacco business have all expressed support and opposition to the day around the world.

The harmful impact of the tobacco industry on the environment is enormous and adding unnecessary pressure to our planet’s already scarce resources and fragile ecosystems.

Over 8 million people die every year as a result of tobacco use. It destroys our environment, further harming human health, through the cultivation, production, distribution, consumption, and post consumer waste.

The economic cost of smoking amounted to 0.97% of the South African GDP in 2016, while the healthcare cost of smoking-related diseases was 4.1% of total South African health expenditure. The costs are lower for women because of their lower smoking prevalence

Tobacco was first introduced into Africa in the 16th century by the Turks who brought it into Egypt. The smoking habits of today’s Africans are governed by local custom and economic status. Cigarette smoking is replacing the traditional pipe, although the latter is still used, particularly in rural areas. 

The prevalence of smoking is higher in urban than rural areas. Traditionally, only men smoked, but the proportion of women smokers is now rising. Smoking is also increasing among African children and adolescents. Cigarette consumption was examined in the 6 African countries from which statistics were available. In all of them, it rose steeply between 1967-76 and actually doubled in Libya and Ethiopia.

In Egypt domestic cigarette sales increased by 23% between 1976-78, but sales of imported cigarettes rose by 25% in 1 year alone. Consumption of imported cigarettes is rising in many African countries. 

Between 1965-76 the volume of tobacco imports almost doubled. Cigarette smuggling is common in some African countries and may account for about 1/3 of total cigarette consumption in Sudan. Some African countries are expanding tobacco agriculture so that they can supply their own needs. Nigeria has increased tobacco cultivation by about 10% a year to meet local demands. 

Zaire’s imports of tobacco increased by about 30% between 1969-73 but now expects to become self-sufficient in tobacco production. Tanzania’s tobacco output increased 7-fold between 1962-74 and will continue to grow through the help of the International Development Association.

The cultivation of tobacco in Africa has been encouraged in recent years by multinational companies, especially British American Tobacco and Rothmans, thus avoiding import duty on raw materials and conservation of scarce foreign exchange. In Nigeria, 60,000 farmers now grow tobacco on 120,000 acres.

The three major deleterious effects of cultivating tobacco are: competition with cultivation of staple food crops, such as rice, millet, cassava, and guinea corn; displacement of necessary cash crops, such as cotton; and loss of timber through tree felling and bush fires due to ignited cigarette stubs and promotion of erosion and Sahelian migration in areas with already sparse vegetation.

 In the Sokoto region of Nigeria, tobacco thrives in the flood plains where rice would normally be expected to grow. Because tobacco provides ready cash, rice is a 2nd choice for cultivation. 

The net result of such displacement of staple food crops is that rice is now imported into Nigeria. Any development economist would rather cultivate rice than tobacco. Forest reserve has been lost from clearing bush to promote cultivation of tobacco and using wood fuel in flue-curing of tobacco.

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