Zimbabwe amongst African Countries with Highest Tobacco Related Deaths in Females

THE 7th edition of the Tobacco Atlas report has placed Zimbabwe in the top 1o list of countries with the highest tobacco related deaths in females on the African continent.

By Michael Gwarisa

The deaths are linked to the increased prevalence in smoking habits at the back of affordability of tobacco products and aggressive marketing by in Africa by tobacco companies. According to the 7th edition of Tobacco Atlas report, with its rapidly growing populations and rising life expectancy, an increase in the number of smokers combined with more years lived with tobacco-related diseases is likely to make Africa suffer the most from future smoking-related burden of death and disease.

The Atlas indicates that the most tobacco-attributable deaths among females occur in China; in 2019, the highest percentages were in Montenegro (21.7%), followed closely by Denmark (21.6%). However, in Africa, countries in North Africa have the highest deaths in female smokers with Algeria leading the pack with 6.4% deaths, followed by Tunisia with 6.3%, Namibia in Southern Africa has 6.2%, Egypt 5.8%, Botswana 5.8% South Africa 5%, Lybia 4.9%, Morocco 4.4% and Zimbabwe 4.3%, Sudan 4.2% and Tanzania 3.7%.

Though currently low in much of Africa, the percentage of tobacco-attributable deaths will rise soon because of increasing prevalence according to the latest report.

The lower tobacco-related burden in Sub-Saharan Africa reflects its historically lower smoking prevalence. However, with an increase in affordability of tobacco products and the tobacco industry’s aggressive marketing in Africa, smoking prevalence has already started to rise or is likely to substantially increase in the future,” said the Report.

Even though Africa recorded a significant increase in Tobacco related deaths in 2019, nearly half of all tobacco-related deaths in 2019 occurred in Highest Human Development Index (HDI) countries. Most tobacco-related deaths among females occurred in the Western Pacific region, with 651,232 deaths in 2019. However, more than 400,000 tobacco-related deaths among females also occurred in three other WHO regions: Europe, South-East Asia, and the region of the Americas. With recent increases in smoking prevalence among female adolescents in some countries, the numbers of these

“In 86 countries, at least one-fifth of all deaths among males are attributable to tobacco use. These countries generally are high- or very high-HDI countries, mostly located in Europe (43 countries) or the Western Pacific region (19 countries), although all other World Health Organization regions have two or more countries where at least one-fifth of all deaths among males are tobacco-related.”

Tobacco use is a major risk factor for the four main noncommunicable diseases: cancer,
cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, and diabetes. In 2019 alone, tobacco use
caused more than 8.67 million deaths worldwide (6.53 million in adult males, 2.14 million
in adult females). Most of these deaths (7.37 million) were attributable to smoking, 
followed by secondhand smoke (1.30 million).

To combat the growing scourge of deaths and morbidities linked to tobacco, there has been growing calls to have punitive measures to regulate the use of tobacco and tobacco products across the board.

“Tobacco tax increases that significantly increase the prices of tobacco products are the single most effective measure for reducing tobacco use. Large tax and price increases prevent tobacco initiation, promote cessation, and reduce overall tobacco consumption. Tobacco taxes are particularly important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“By reducing tobacco use and tobacco-induced diseases, higher taxes can alleviate the burden on health systems facing increased strain from patients suffering from COVID-19. At the same time, higher tobacco taxes generate new tax revenues that can be used to fund public health systems,” added the Atlas report.

Evidence from every region of the world and from countries at all income levels demonstrates the effectiveness of higher tobacco taxes in reducing tobacco use. On average, tobacco taxes that raise prices by 10% lead to a 4% reduction in overall tobacco use in high-income countries and a 5% reduction in use in low- and middle-income countries.

“The lack of progress on tobacco taxation is partly due to the misleading arguments made by the tobacco industry and its allies in opposition to higher taxes. Particularly prominent is the argument that higher tobacco taxes will cause increases in cigarette smuggling, which would negate the positive public health and revenue impacts of tax increases.

“Numerous independent studies have shown that these claims are greatly exaggerated and that governments can raise taxes, reduce tobacco use, generate new tax revenues, and control illicit trade in tobacco products all at the same time. In fact, while implementing one of the most sustained sets of tax increases globally in recent years that has driven down not only cigarette consumption, the tax authorities also successfully managed to reduce illicit trade through thoughtful tax administration and enforcement.”

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