The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on African governments to impose environmental tax levies on tobacco across the value and supply chains, including production, processing, distribution, sales, consumption and waste management.
Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa, made the call on Monday in a message to commemorate the 2022 World No Tobacco Day which is always celebrated on 31 May every year.
Ms Moeti said the day was to raise awareness of the negative health, social, economic and environmental impacts of tobacco production and use.
She said the year’s theme, ‘Tobacco: Threat to our environment’, aimed to highlight the environmental impact of the entire tobacco cycle, from cultivation, production and distribution, to the toxic waste it generates.
Ms Moeti advised countries to accelerate the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which provides the necessary guidance to advance the creation of smoke-free environments.
According to her, the framework will create programmes to support tobacco users to quit, and support for the application of excise tax and other financial countermeasures.
Ms Moeti added that despite 24 African countries instituting bans on smoking in public places, and 35 banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, our estimates are that one in every 10 African adolescents use tobacco.
She explained that the emergence of new products, such as electronic nicotine and tobacco products, are also proving attractive to youths, compounding the concerns.
“With 44 of WHO African Region’s 47 countries having ratified the WHO FCTC, which commits them to adopting effective and evidence-based measures to curb tobacco consumption,” the WHO director noted. “The need to address related environmental damage has seen WHO redouble its efforts to counter the overall threat.”
She also mentioned that the environmental impacts of tobacco farming included massive use of water, which was a scarce resource across most of the continent, along with large-scale deforestation and contamination of the air and water systems.
According to her, land used to grow tobacco could also be used much more efficiently, especially in countries grappling with food insecurity.
“To help counter the threat, WHO has joined hands with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Kenyan government to create the Tobacco-Free Farms project,” she added. “Launched in March, the project supports farms to switch from tobacco to alternative food crops that will help feed communities, rather than harm their health.”