Global Epidemic

Africa

Among the world’s regions, Africa presents the greatest threat in terms of future growth in tobacco use.

  • 6 percent of the world's adult smokers — about 77 million smokers — live in Africa.1
  • If no further policy action is taken, smoking prevalence is expected to increase by nearly 39 percent by 2030, the largest expected regional increase globally.2
  • 26 percent of the world's smokers — about 413 million people — will live in Africa by 2100, if current trends persist.1

Africa has become the "new playground" for transnational tobacco companies as tobacco markets shrink and rates of smoking decline in high-income countries. Transnational tobacco companies have set their sights on getting Africans addicted to their deadly products.

But even as the tobacco industry actively targets African countries, change is occurring across the region as policymakers, public health experts and the public increasingly recognize the urgency of supporting proven tobacco control policies like those contained in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In recent years, several African countries have proposed or enacted strong national tobacco control measures including Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Uganda.

The success of efforts to reduce tobacco use across Africa will be determined by the level of political will to pass and implement FCTC-compliant policies. Policy makers and public health champions must act now to implement the treaty by adopting strong tobacco control laws to improve health and reduce the horrible burden of tobacco use.

1 Evan Blecher and Hana Ross Tobacco Use in Africa: Tobacco Control through Prevention American Cancer Society (2013).
2 Network of African Science Academies, 2014. Preventing a tobacco epidemic in Africa: A call for effective action to support health, social, and economic development. Nairobi, Kenya. Report of the Committee on the Negative Effects of Tobacco on Africa’s Health, Economy, and Development.

January 2016