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The smoking gun: Men in Africa can’t kick the habit


The smoking gun: Men in Africa can’t kick the habit

Tobacco use declines worldwide, except for here

Senior science reporter

“I didn’t think about my health when I started. Now I smoke on my breaks when I am working, and a lot more at night at my home. My nose is blocked. I am wasting my money. But what now?”
When Mubita Kalenga, 28, a Malawian gardener in Cape Town, smoked his first cigarette four years ago he became part of a map somewhere on the wall of big tobacco – a map where X marks the spot on plans for expanding markets, increased profit margins and the loyalty of newly addicted customers.
According to a study just published in digital science journal PLOS One, smoking rates are declining all over the world except among men in Southern Africa, where they are going up – and where interventions in high school are proving feeble against the pull of nicotine.
In light of the global decline, explains lead researcher Akihiro Nishio from Gifu University in Japan, “tobacco companies have begun to expand their markets in low- and middle-income countries, capitalising on economic growth, changing social norms and population demographics”.Ashes to ashes: Smoking by numbers
29.2% – Proportion of men who smoke.
7.3% – Proportion of women who smoke.
32.9% – Proportion of smokers in the Western Cape, the province with the highest rate of smoking.
Source: “Prevalence of tobacco use among adults in South Africa”, Human Sciences Research Council, 2015To counter this some countries have used school programmes which are “cost-effective and sustainable”.
However, the study – which was done in South Africa and Nigeria – showed that such interventions improved knowledge about smoking but did not decrease its prevalence.
“Tobacco prevention programmes that have success in Western countries are not always effective in African countries,” said the researchers.
Their work is part of a growing body of research on smoking, which is the world’s leading cause of preventable death and kills more than seven million people annually.
Next month researchers, scientists, doctors, civic organisations and policy makers will make up the 2,000 delegates descending on Cape Town for the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, which is being held in Africa for the first time in its 50-year history.According to the organisers, this is significant because the region is a “test case” for the future of tobacco control and its ability to “rein in aggressive interference from big tobacco”.
Despite the global decline, smoking in Africa is expected to climb by 40% by 2030 compared to 2010.
In European research on smoking just published in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology, smokers are said to have distorted perceptions of when their habit would affect their health.
Scientists at the universities of Milano-Bicocca and Surrey asked 162 participants to estimate when smoking-related conditions would develop in an 18-year-old who started smoking 10 cigarettes a day.
The researchers discovered that on average, smokers thought the onset of both mild and severe smoking-related conditions would occur later in life than non-smokers did.
“This distorted perception is incredibly dangerous for those who do smoke, and may lead people to delay quitting smoking or screening for smoking-related conditions, increasing their risk of developing a serious illness,” said researcher Patrice Rusconi.

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