Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this in a statement in Abuja to commemorate the 2017 “World No Tobacco Day” held annually on May 31.
The event is held to raise awareness on the dangers associated with tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
The theme for this year’s event is “Tobacco – a threat to development.”
According to Moeti, globally, tobacco kills more than seven million people every year; with over 80 per cent from low and middle income countries.
She said on the average, tobacco users lose 15 years of their life; making its use one of the leading preventable risk factors for non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, among others.
“In the African Region, about 146, 000 adults aged 30 years and above die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
“For the African Region, the cost of healthcare from tobacco smoking is 3.5 per cent of total health expenditure each year, imposing a heavy economic burden on national economies through increased healthcare costs.
“Tobacco use worsens health inequalities and exacerbates poverty, as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and healthcare,” Moeti said.
She urged individuals to help make a sustainable, tobacco-free world either by never using tobacco products or quitting the habit to protect their health and that of people exposed to smoking, including children.
She called for the introduction of stiff policy to control illicit trade in tobacco, adding that this would help to reduce tobacco use and its health and economic consequence.
According to Moeti, tobacco control is one of the most effective means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by 2030.
Moeti noted that the aim of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development was to ensure “no one is left behind”.
The African regional director said tobacco also impacted the environment as well through tobacco smoke, litter, fires and deforestation leading to climate change.
She maintained that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco (WHO FCTC) was still the world’s most powerful tool to tackle tobacco’s negative impact on development.
Moeti advocated for an increase in tobacco taxes and prices as an effective way to reduce demand for tobacco through reduction in its affordability.
She said the revenue generated for governments could be used to finance universal health coverage, health promotion as well as other development programmes.
Moeti said its control could break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture, economic growth and combat climate change.