By Aisha Tamba
Tobacco smoking epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats in the world today, according to the WHO Regional Director for Africa, and it kills more than 7 million people each year.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti was speaking on the occasion of World No Tobacco Day.
May 31 is set aside by WHO and its partners to highlight the dangers associated with using tobacco, and to press for policies to reduce its use.
With the theme Tobacco and heart disease, Dr. Moeti said: “There is no safe level for people, particularly children, women and workers, who have to be in the same room as smokers.
“In the African Region, about 146 000 adults aged 30 years and above die every year from tobacco-related diseases.”
Dr Moeti observes when tobacco users die prematurely in their productive years, families lose loved ones and income, and economic development is negatively affected.
“Although concrete actions and measures exist to stem the tide of tobacco related diseases, more needs to be done to further raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco use,”
Dr Moeti said World No Tobacco Day is a chance for governments and the public to take firm actions on the drug.
“Today, I call upon member states to implement measures which we know will strengthen tobacco control as found in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Effective measures to reduce tobacco demand which can be accomplished in a short time and at reasonable cost include increasing tobacco taxes and prices, which will save lives as well as generate money for governments.
Other steps include creating completely smoke-free indoor workplaces and public places, instituting hard-hitting warnings and graphic pictures about the dangers of smoking on cigarette packaging, and banning tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship.
“Every person can play a role in promoting healthy hearts by committing not to use tobacco, helping others to quit, and protecting all people, including family members, workers and children from tobacco smoke.
“Eliminating tobacco use will help to protect hearts from breaking. Let us choose health, not tobacco,” Dr Moeti advised.