Tobacco control is not only a critical public health issue but also a key determinant of development across Africa where the war against this addictive product is far from over. Progress has however been made and important battles won.
This recognition of the wider economic impact of tobacco threaded through the opening sessions at the landmark 1st Africa Conference on Tobacco Control and Development. The virtual event is being attended by hundreds of researchers, policy makers, advocates, public health experts and media from across the continent.
The conference aims to support national and regional tobacco control initiatives and contribute to decreasing the prevalence of tobacco use and the exposure to tobacco smoke in order to reduce the burden of disease and death caused by tobacco.
Officially opening the conference keynote speaker Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, Executive Secretary of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the African Union’s specialized agency for capacity development, had no hesitation in declaring: “Tobacco threatens Africa’s present and future workforce.”
He indicated that this danger to the continent’s sustainable development was the ACBF’s motivation for joining the movement for tobacco control. It shared primary responsibility for organising the conference with the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA), based at Makerere University, Uganda.
Prof. Nnadozie saluted the impressive exchange of learning among African countries, the significant strengthening of legal frameworks for tobacco control and particularly noted the role of the courts in Uganda and Kenya in “protecting public policies from vested interests” by dismissing the tobacco industry’s challenges to tobacco control legislation.
Conference Chair and Director of the CTCA Prof. William Bazeyo described the continental conference as the realisation of a dream seeded when the CTCA was established 10 years ago. By charting a clear research agenda for the African tobacco control community, the CTCA had created conditions for this unifying event.