Accra, May 30, GNA - The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday appealed to African governments to ratify and implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the WHO's first treaty that provides for restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
In a message to commemorate World No Tobacco Day, Dr Luis Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said: "We take advantage of this day to appeal to governments not only to ratify this Convention but also to implement it with the involvement of the public and private sectors, NGOs, civil society associations and all stakeholders."
The message said as at March 01, eight African countries had ratified the Convention and 31 others were taking steps to do so. Dr Sambo said the ratification and implementation of the Convention by member states in the region would contribute significantly to the fight against the tobacco epidemic and its harmful effects. FCTC includes a number of actions aimed at curbing tobacco-related deaths and diseases.
In addition to restrictions on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorships, the convention urges new controls on labelling tobacco products, more stringent legislation on tobacco smuggling and indoor quality controls.
"Tobacco has many harmful effects. These include different types of cancers, chronic lung and cardiovascular diseases, damage to the reproductive system and addiction to nicotine,'' Dr Sambo said. He also warned that exposure to second-hand smoking increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and sudden infant death.
World No Tobacco Day, observed on May 31 every year, provides an opportunity to raise awareness on the dangers of tobacco consumption and the harmful practices of the tobacco industry.
It also proclaims the role of WHO in fighting the epidemic and what people could do to proclaim their right to health and protect present and future generations.
The Regional Director said it was apt and proper that the theme of the Day in 2005 be dedicated to health professionals because they had a crucial role to play in bringing about behaviour change.
These include forming alliances to promote FCTC and campaign for an increase in tobacco tax as well as acting as role models by adopting a code of responsible behaviour.
WHO estimates that there are more than one billion smokers in the world, and five million tobacco-related deaths annually. If the current consumption patterns continue, the number of deaths is projected to reach 10 million by 2002, 70 per cent of these in developing countries.
In 2000, the latest year for which figures are available, 200,000 tobacco-related deaths were recorded in Africa where tobacco use prevalence was 29 per cent in males and seven per cent in females.