Tobacco control advocates have called for actions that would put pressure on governments in Africa for effective tobacco control policies and laws to put an end to tobacco usage and smoking.
They argued that tobacco companies had targeted Africa, especially its youth, to make them addicted to their products and make money out of their illicit and perilous business.
The training programme, organized by the Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative (ATCRI), is to equip members on policy and advocacy, help them change policy and train them in epidemiology and make a difference in their respective countries.
Participants come from Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Malawi, Ethiopia and The Gambia.
They would be taken through building effective media advocacy, identifying key obstacles to tobacco control in their respective countries, health impacts of tobacco smoking, key industry argument and industry monitoring as well as funding initiative for tobacco control in Africa.
Mr Oscar Bruce, Vice President of Coalition of NGOs on Tobacco Control and Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth complained about the numerous deaths being recorded as a result of tobacco smoking.
He said tobacco-related diseases were on the rise in Africa, saying that over four million people worldwide died in 1998 of tobacco-related diseases.
He noted that if the current tobacco use trend continued, "it is estimated that by 2030, 10 million people will die from tobacco-related diseases and seven million of these people would be from developing countries".
Mr Bruce explained that the British American Tobacco (BAT) alone made profits of 5.28 million dollars each year from every 1,000 sticks of cigarettes it sold in Africa.
“In Ghana, this translates to about GH¢0.23 per pack. So if a person in Ghana smokes one pack per day, then, he or she contributes GH¢83.95 in profits per year to BAT.”
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 1.3 billion smokers worldwide with 4.9 million people dying each year before their 50th birthday.
He said it was unfortunate that smoking and death had reduced in the developed world where this aspect of social vice originated from and had risen in poorer countries where women and young children were the most affected.
"Tobacco smoking caused a lot of harm to the health of people and its use was a major cause of over 20 major categories of fatal, disabling diseases and preventable deaths leading to cancers, heart attacks and respiratory diseases.
“A stick of cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals which when inhaled could result in cardiovascular diseases, cancer of the kidney, lung, breast, pancreas, peptic, bladder, bronchitis and emphysema among others and puffing a stick is like puffing a whole packet of it.”
Mr Nnimmo Bassey, Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria, said it was unfortunate that these tobacco manufacturing companies had targeted Africa especially the youth to get them addicted to tobacco smoking because there were hundreds of substances added to cigarettes to make smoking experience more pleasant and quitting becomes difficult.
He urged government, non-governmental organisations, community groups, health professionals and religious groups to play their role in combating the epidemic of tobacco use.