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Undercover Investigation Reveals Alarming Breaches in Africa Tobacco Laws

lthough tobacco control laws have been implemented across Africa, the targeting of children by Big Tobacco through new products and insidious marketing tactics

by Kwabe Ben
tobacco laws

A recent undercover investigation in Nigeria has revealed that volunteers dressed in high school uniforms were able to purchase cigarettes and vapes from various stores, despite existing laws prohibiting their sale to minors.

This discovery has sparked a public outcry, urging the government to enhance enforcement measures. Although tobacco control laws have been implemented across Africa, the targeting of children by Big Tobacco through new products and insidious marketing tactics remains a significant concern.

Most countries have banned direct tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (TAPS), yet the industry continues to circumvent these regulations, jeopardizing the health and well-being of children and youth.

Alarming Trends Across Africa

Recent findings highlight several concerning trends across the continent:

  1. Kenya: Big Tobacco has invested £1 billion in influencer marketing to attract young people to nicotine addiction. This strategy has led to 6.0% of primary school students and 14.5% of secondary school students in Kenya using tobacco products, largely due to marketing that presents these products as trendy and offers flavored options.
  2. Zambia: Smoking prevalence is rising, contrasting the downward trend in other countries, indicating an urgent need for intensified intervention. The tobacco industry in Zambia engages in corporate social responsibility activities targeting youth, presenting a paradox where campaigns against underage smoking coexist with marketing that depicts smoking as fashionable.
  3. Senegal: Despite regulatory efforts, Philip Morris maintains a significant presence, perpetuating tobacco addiction among the youth. With 11.5% of youth aged 13-15 years using tobacco products, stricter regulations for companies like Philip Morris are essential to protect this demographic from the harmful effects of tobacco and prevent lifelong addiction.
  4. South Africa: As one of the leading producers of cigarettes in Africa, South Africa has exploited social media influencers to market tobacco products to young people, violating local advertising laws and exposing impressionable minds to harmful substances.

Call to Action

tobacco laws

According to a 2024 report from the World Health Organization, approximately 37 million children aged 13 to 15 globally use tobacco.

Maryam Ahmad, #LungLiveAfrica campaign manager, emphasized the need for stronger governmental resolve to protect children and youth from the harms of tobacco by enforcing existing regulations and curbing the industry’s activities.

The #LungLiveAfrica campaign is advocating for more robust action against the tobacco industry’s exploitation in Africa through an online and petition campaign.

As advocates for public health and the well-being of future generations, the campaign calls upon all stakeholders—including media, policymakers, civil society organizations, and concerned citizens—to unite and urges African leaders to:

  1. Enforce strict tobacco control policies, including bans on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship.
  2. Implement complete bans on vapes, e-cigarettes, and shisha to safeguard youth.
  3. Reject partnerships with the tobacco industry that undermine public health objectives.
  4. Invest in public education to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco.
  5. Combat online tobacco advertising with fines and penalties.
  6. Create smoke-free environments to protect non-smokers.

The campaign underscores the need for a collective effort to protect the younger generation from the predatory tactics of the tobacco industry and to promote a healthier future for all.

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