26.06.2008 Health

5.4 million people killed by tobacco annually

5.4 million people killed by tobacco annually
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Accra, June 26, GNA- African Regional Meeting on Tobacco Control Building for Africa, is underway in Accra to brainstorm on strategies to curb the about 5.4 million global annual deaths related to tobacco.
The participants, which comprise 17 African countries and representatives from the US and Switzerland would be spending the next two days to discuss the tactics to reverse the findings of a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the death toll per year would rise to eight million by 2030 with 80 per cent of the victims from Third World countries.
The consultation, which is a follow-up of a similar meeting in Geneva in February this year, would use the 2008 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, as a reference point to identify the strengths and weaknesses of tobacco control in the Region.
The meeting, which was opened by Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Thursday would also deliberate on the first public health treaty of the WHO dubbed: “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC)”, which has been ratified by over 150 countries committed to taking effective action against
the use of tobacco.
Vice President Mahama noted that, the sheer scale of tobacco impact on
the global disease burden is often not appreciated fully.
He said as at 23 May 2008, a total of 157 countries and parties to the
WHO had either ratified or acceded to the FCTC.
“Unfortunately, Africa's capacity to speak and act as one body for the implementation of the treaty has been weak. The FCTC process provided funds
and a framework for African countries to get together but it seems the
Continent is at risk of loosing momentum.”
Vice President Mahama said little political awareness about the economic cost of tobacco use and the porous borders that exacerbate the trans-national nature of tobacco epidemic were some of the challenges facing Africa.
“It is gratifying to note that in November 2008, the WHO African Region would host the third Conference Parties in South Africa to strengthen the political momentum on tobacco control and the FCTC in the Region.”
Mr. Abraham Odom, Deputy Minister of Health described the tobacco threat as a man-made profit driven epidemic that could be tackled through global collaboration.
He called for urgent efficient networking system to ensure the co-ordination of tobacco strategies, plans and programmes among health professionals, government structures, private companies, non-governmental organisations and other influential groups.
Dr Elias Sory, Director- General of the Ghana Health Service, said although Ghana was among the first countries to ratify the Convention it lacks the national plan and law to implement it.
He observed that, one out of five youth in Africa between 13 and 15 years are already using tobacco products.
“WHO estimates that the highest increase in deaths from non-communicable diseases over the next 10 years would occur in Africa,” he said, explaining that 27 per cent of such cases would be due to tobacco use.
Dr. Sory said 36 out of 46 member countries had ratified the framework to check the public use of tobacco.
Dr Joaquim Saweka, WHO Representative in Ghana said Africa was establishing itself as a major player in tobacco control and advocated the ban of all adverts on tobacco products.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Director of Non Communicable Disease Control of the WHO in Africa, expressed concern about the level of exposure of tobacco to passive smokers, which, she said, exposed over 50 per cent of young people to health risks.
She observed that Africa is now a new market for the tobacco industry and called for efforts to fight it.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of about 10 different forms of cancer that affects the lung, pancreas, stomach and the bladder.
Tobacco also accounts for heart diseases, stroke, periodontitis, asthma, infertility and other forms of respiratory ailments.
The WHO says 100 million people died from tobacco use in the 20th century and estimated that one billion people could die this century

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