By Kemo Cham
The global effort to counter the scourge of tobacco as a leading cause of cancer in Africa has received a huge prop up in the form of $7 million, courtesy of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The money, which comes in the form of a grant of over five years, is earmarked for the establishment of a new continental anti-tobacco consortium, according to a statement released by the American Cancer Society (ACS), which is tasked to manage the project. According to the statement released on Wednesday February 3rd, ACS will lead and coordinate the African Tobacco Control Consortium, a global coalition of public health-oriented organizations focusing on using evidence-based approaches to stem the tobacco epidemic on the continent. The consortium includes the Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), Africa Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), the statement said. “We are excited to be part of this important new effort,” said John R. Seffrin, ACS’s chief executive officer. “Tobacco companies have begun to target developing countries as tobacco control efforts in high-resource countries have yielded tough restrictions, and we will make sure that the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have the information and tools to protect their citizens from preventable diseases and death caused by tobacco.” The new African anti-tobacco consortium will seek, among other things, to assist national governments and various civil society organizations across the countries to implement policies geared towards curtailing access of tobacco by people, all in line with the requirements of the global treaty of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Various lines of action will be taken, among them pursuance of advertising bans, tobacco tax increases, graphic warning labels on cigarette packets, as well as the promotion of smoke free environments. The body will also advocate for further tobacco control resources in the region with the goal of protecting existing laws from tobacco industry’s negative influence, conduct researches with the aim of improving on future tobacco control work.
In a part of the world that is notably affected by HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases, cancer is emerging as a serious public health threat, the statement from ACS said. It cited a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer which attributed much of the rise of cancer cases to widespread tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke.
“This development will be instrumental to help achieve a coordinated response to the rising rate of tobacco consumption and looming tobacco epidemic in the Africa Region,” said Akinbode Oluwafemi, Acting Director of the Nigeria based Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), one of six (6) organizations forming the continental grouping.
Tobacco is described as the leading cause of preventable death in the world, and according to the World Health Organization, if current trends continue, tobacco use will cause one billion deaths worldwide during this century. Statistics show that African nations face the highest increase in tobacco use among developing countries.
As the managing organization, ACS will collaborate with consortium partners to implement an ambitious tobacco control program across the 46 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the statement said. Its overall goal will be to reduce tobacco use in these countries by implementing proven strategies at the national and local level.
By Kemo Cham