WHO Reports That Seven Million Youths In Africa Are Tobacco Users, According To WNTD

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Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for Africa at the World Health Organization, has disclosed that approximately seven million youths between the ages of 13 and 15 in the African Region engage in tobacco use.

She highlighted this concerning issue in her statement for World No Tobacco Day, emphasizing that young individuals are increasingly exposed to tobacco products through social media platforms, streaming campaigns, and influencers.

World No Tobacco Day is observed annually on May 31 to raise awareness about the detrimental and fatal consequences of tobacco consumption.

This year’s theme, ‘Protecting children from tobacco industry interference,’ aims to mobilize global efforts to safeguard young people from harmful tobacco and nicotine products, as well as the misleading tactics employed by the tobacco industry in promoting their products.

Moeti stated, “This day provides us the opportunity to continue highlighting the dangers associated with tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

“Today, we reflect on our progress in tobacco control while recognizing the challenges in our efforts to stop the tactics employed by the tobacco industry to frustrate tobacco control efforts.

“By this theme, young people across the world have a platform to call out for the tobacco industry to stop targeting them with products that are harmful to their health.”

Globally, over 37 million young people between the ages of 13 and 15 are currently using tobacco products, according to her statistics.

“In the African Region, tobacco use among young people aged 13 to 15 years is at 11.1 per cent for boys and 7.2 per cent for girls, which is about seven million tobacco users.

“An estimated 1.3 million people die from second-hand smoke every year. These deaths are entirely preventable. People exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke are at risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers,” she stated.

The Regional Director emphasized that the organization works to assist member states in maintaining a steady progress in tobacco control efforts by advocating for strong tobacco regulations and strict oversight of marketing tactics for new and emerging tobacco and nicotine products, which are frequently designed to appeal to youth.

“Due to our efforts, 45 countries in the African region have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and 22 have ratified the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products. Twenty-two countries have adopted new tobacco control laws that have enabled them to implement the provisions of the tobacco control framework effectively.

“These national legislations have resulted in accelerated implementation of the WHO FCTC in more than 35 countries and contributed significantly to the downward trends in the prevalence of tobacco use in the region,” she noted .

While acknowledging that progress has been made in reducing tobacco use among adults in the region, from 14.9% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2023, and that 22 countries are on track to achieve a 30% reduction by 2025 compared to 2010 rates, Moeti warned that the tobacco industry is actively working to undermine this progress.

She highlighted that the industry invests significant time and resources in promoting flawed science, lobbying, and corporate social responsibility initiatives to lure young people and influence policies that prioritize its commercial interests over public health.

“This shows that more efforts are still needed to stop the tobacco industry’s relentless efforts to market its products to young people. As WHO, we continue working closely with governments to address the barriers to effective response and speed up the momentum to protect Africa’s young people from tobacco use.

“I urge our Member States in the African Region to step up their efforts to protect young people from tobacco industry interference by ensuring governments honour and abide by their obligations under WHO FCTC Article 5.3 by introducing safeguards to protect the tobacco-control policy from tobacco industry interference; countering tobacco industry tactics through evidence-based arguments and best practices with full involvement of civil society organisations.

“Raising awareness among the public on the tactics of the tobacco industry; and exposing industry efforts to target youth and attract generations of people with addiction through innovative approaches, including marketing new and emerging products and using flavours.

“As an organisation, we encourage countries to accelerate their implementation of the WHO FCTC with stringent measures on marketing new and emerging tobacco and nicotine products, particularly designed to appeal to youth. These include shisha, e-cigarettes (flavoured products), nicotine pouches, and others that are aggressively promoted through social media platforms.

“Countries should implement and enforce a 100 per cent ban on public smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes (vaping), apply excise tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption, and implement effective measures to communicate health risks through graphic health warnings to populations, including children and youth,” she summarized.

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