NAIROBI, April 12 (Xinhua) -- African states should ensure that they enforce a comprehensive ban of all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and this should include any advertising or promotional materials related to single sticks in order to stop the spread of the tobacco epidemic, anti-tobacco lobby said on Thursday.
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) said in a report released in Nairobi that when cigarettes are sold in single sticks, they become relatively cheap compared to when they are sold as a full pack.
"Consequently, the product is more affordable to young people and other individuals with limited resources," says the report.
The ATCA survey covered 10 African capital cities and sought to learn whether concern single tobacco stick sales existed within governments.
According to the study, out of all the tobacco retailers observed, Uganda had the most open cigarette packs followed by Togo and Nigeria despite these countries prohibiting the sale of single sticks.
The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which most African states have ratified, has already identified measures to control the sale of single sticks of cigarettes.
The report shows that selling single sticks of cigarettes is one of the strategies used by tobacco companies to market their products in Africa.
The findings show that the sale of single sticks of cigarettes is widespread in Africa and poses a serious problem even in countries such as Burkina Faso, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Uganda and Togo where it is banned.
The survey also reveals that single stick cigarette sales facilitate experimentation among youth who have not yet become regular smokers.
The report also notes that the absence of laws regarding cigarette sales or the lack of enforcement of existing laws encourages retailers to sell sticks of cigarettes.
The report notes that selling single sticks of cigarettes undermines existing effective tobacco control policies by limiting an individual's exposure to health warning labels and lessening the impact of tobacco tax increases on cigarette packs.
Emma Wanyonyi, CEO of the International Institute for Legislative Affairs (ILA), said tobacco consumption remains a major public health problem and a serious threat to the development of countries around Africa.
"Unfortunately, tobacco companies seemed to be more concerned about making profits by getting as many people as possible to smoke, rather that the serious health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use," Wanyonyi said.
Wanyonyi added that Africa which is rapidly becoming an important business hub for tobacco multinational companies, consists mainly of low and middle income countries characterized by weak, poorly implemented and in some cases, non-existent tobacco control policies.
She noted that the tobacco industry has exploited this weak policy environment to target African populations with aggressive marketing campaigns.
According to ILA, the cost of tobacco industry far outweighs any benefit in form of tax revenues and job creation.
"For every one U.S. dollar earned by government in form of taxation, the country has to spend 3 U.S. dollars to cure diseases associated with tobacco consumption," she said.
Wanyonyi added that tobacco use is a major contributor to the growing burden of non-communicable disease, which currently contribute to between 50 to 70 percent of all hospital admissions, half of inpatient mortality and 55 percent of total mortality in Kenya.
Wanyonyi noted that in Kenya about 11.6 percent of the adult population while 9.9 percent of youth aged 13 to 15 currently uses tobacco products on a regular basis.