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Assignment C1

Manlio Giordano, January 4th 2010

The number of smokers is currently expanding dramatically in


Africa. The smoking frequency in the continent still remains the
lowest in the world, but it is now growing more and more rapidly.
In Nigeria, for instance, only 12% of males are regular smokers,
but currently more than 200 teens cross the line to becoming
smokers every day in the country (where a USD 150 million
cigarette factory was completed in 2003). The present rate of
increase in Africa is expected to go up even further; a bona fide
boom is predicted both by public health officials and researchers
of the tobacco industry. The US Centers for Disesase Control and
Prevention (CDC) have predicted that smoking will soon become
the greatest single killer in Africa, and thus surpass the toll even
from malaria, tuberculosis, and the highest prevalence of HIV in
the world.

The cause of the steep increase is an aggressive marketing and


lobbying effort from the companies of “Big Tobacco”, that can get
greater returns on their investments outside the West, given that
anti-smoking legislation is often more lenient and public
awareness of the hazards associated with smoking lower. Social
structures that can often accommodate 10-year-old smokers add
further to the already fertile conditions for creating nicotine
dependence on an epidemic scale, and thus a boom in cigarette
sales. In Africa, a large portion of cigarettes are sold “by the stick”,
which is considered particularly worrying given that the price of a
single cigarette (about 10 Nigerian naira, or 0.046 Euros) is right
for children and for the poor – who are often also uneducated.
Furthermore, the warnings printed on the packs will never be seen
(by the often illiterate buyers) and single “sticks” are easily
concealed from parents and teachers by children.

In order to create a smoking epidemic before anti-smoking


legislation becomes a problem, the tobacco industry employs
many of the traditional avenues for manipulating people and
politicians. For instance, benevolent work on a massive scale

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(vaccination programs, water-purification programs, scholarships
etc.) provides leverage in crucial situations, so that the passing of
regulatory legislation can be stopped or delayed; essentially,
favours are cashed in and the beneficiaries of charity become
hostages of the tobacco industry. Many African countries are not
prepared for such a wide-scale assault; few have even formulated
anti-smoking strategies and in 2001, only half had records of
cigarette sales.

Africa is not unique in the present regard. Cigarette sales have


increased tremendously outside the West. Thus, 61% of the
Chinese are now regular smokers – more than the entire US
population – and 56% of Malaysians. At the same time, the number
of adult smokers in the US is the lowest (<20%) since reliable
records have been kept, and Europe is becoming an increasingly
difficult market due to regulations, bans and rising taxes.
Transferring a market from the West in the face of difficulty is not
at all a new phenomenon, however.

Some nations in Africa are taking serious measures to control


tobacco sales – where South Africa may have come the farthest –
but the might of “Big Tobacco” must not be underestimated, with
830 cigarettes sold each year per person on the planet.

REFERENCES
Holzman, David C. Tobacco in Africa. Environmental Health Perspectives,
March 2001.

Kluger, Jeffrey. Big Tobacco’s War for Africa. Time, August 10, 2009.

Pickert, Kate. Why a Tobacco Giant Backs a Tough New Antismoking Bill. Time,
June 12, 2009.

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