#Article (Archive)

Let's Stub Out Exploitation!

Jul 1, 2008, 7:08 AM

How frustrating it is to see big tobacco companies targeting Africa. It has been a growing trend in recent years and yet not enough is being done by anyone to stop it. As soon as life became too difficult for the purveyors of death in Europe and the United States, they began to immediately target the less safeguarded markets in Africa. In Europe, not only is advertising is banned, but there are also strict regulations around sponsorship. Cigarettes are heavily taxed and they can only be sold in large numbers. All these steps aim to make smoking not only prohibitively expensive but unattractive to young people. Unfortunately none of these things are happening in Africa and the big unscrupulous tobacco companies are moving in for the kill. A recent BBC investigation has revealed that a British tobacco giant is breaking its own marketing code covering the sale of cigarettes to young people in Africa. The BBC has found evidence in Nigeria, Malawi and Mauritius of rules being broken. In particular, BBC Two's This World found single cigarettes - which campaigners say are attractive to young people - were being promoted and sold. The company involved, British American Tobacco (BAT), says it does not encourage the sale of single "sticks". This investigation was carried out in the countries mentioned above but it begs the question what would be found if similar investigations were carried out in all the other countries on the continent? One would have to believe that things might not be all that different.

The investigation also reveals the tactics used by BAT which circumvent bans on advertising and raise the profile of cigarettes in countries where doctors are warning of a potential epidemic of smoking-related diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the number of smoking-related deaths in Africa is 100,000 a year, but that figure is set to double in the next 20 years. We have enough difficulties to deal with in Africa without the added scourge of being exploited by tobacco companies. There are various very simple steps which can be taken and would be very effective in preventing us from being exploited. We could raise taxes, thus increasing revenue for the state. We could ban advertising and thus help to reduce the chances of young people starting the habit and we could educate our population about the dangers of smoking. If an adult wishes to make an informed choice to smoke, then they have the right to do so but no child or uninformed adult can be allowed to be duped into taking up what is, simply put, a killer habit. We must not let ourselves be exploited for the sake of profits in far away pockets. Cigarettes are a threat to our future. We must protect out future at all costs