WHO opens Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa

Brazzaville, 1 November 2011 -- The World Health Organization (WHO) has opened a Centre for Tobacco Control in Kampala, Uganda, to build regional capacity to strengthen tobacco control interventions. The Centre is hosted by a consortium led by Makerere University’s School of Public Health in Kampala, Uganda, and is funded through a grant to WHO from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to WHO statistics, up to 22% of 13–15 year olds in the region are already using tobacco products. The increasing use of tobacco is a significant driver in the epidemiological transition from communicable to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in the African Region.

"Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of illness and death. Trends in tobacco consumption in the Region particularly among young people show that urgent concrete actions are required across all sectors to address this issue,” said Dr Luis Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
"This Centre will contribute significantly towards WHO’s ongoing work with countries to reduce tobacco use and support people towards making healthy lifestyle choices," he added.

Tobacco is one of the major contributors to NCDs - heart attacks, strokes, cancers, diabetes, asthma and other chronic diseases together account for 63% of all deaths worldwide. In the 46 countries of the WHO African Region, noncommunicable diseases are expected to increase by 27% in the next decade and will account for more than 50% of all deaths by 2030.

“Unless urgent action is taken, the tobacco epidemic is poised to become much worse," said Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) adding that "The existence of an attractive, under-tapped market and the promotional tactics of the tobacco industry have created 'perfect storm' conditions for tobacco use to take root, especially among young people."

Countries in the African Region were at the forefront in negotiations of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), and 41 of them have so far ratified the treaty. However, there is the need for appropriate government legislative actions for its full implementation.

With technical support from WHO, and in collaboration with other tobacco control partners, the new resource centre will work with countries to build and manage tobacco control expert networks, train government officials and other stakeholders, provide direct technical assistance and undertake resource mobilization activities among others.

Related links

Tobacco Control in the WHO Africa Region