Since 26 September 2017, new packs of cigarettes appeared on Senegal’s markets, featuring warning messages on the dangers of tobacco, and images of people suffering from various conditions linked to the use of tobacco. These strong images go beyond awareness messages that Senegalese authorities have been issuing for some time, exposing the Senegalese population to images of people whose health is threatened by tobacco.
This new measure implemented by Senegal is based on a recommendation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) that stipulates, as per Article 11, that States must adopt and implement efficient measures to prohibit misleading packaging and labelling, to guarantee that packaging of tobacco products have health warnings and messages exposing the harmful effects of tobacco consumption, to make sure that these warnings and messages cover at least 50% of the main surface, but no less than 30%, and that they appear in one or several official languages of the respective State. The Guidelines for the application of Article 11 were adopted by the Conference of the Parties at the FCTC, during its third session.
These measures were reiterated in the Law n°2014-14 of 28 March 2014 pertaining to the manufacturing, packaging, sale and use of tobacco, of which Implementation Decree was signed on 26 July 2016. Both these texts were completed by Order 18415 dated 8 December 2016, setting the list of health warnings, affixing modalities, and renewal of tobacco and tobacco products packaging. The deadline of 26 August 2017 was set for tobacco industries to conform to the regulation and the tobacco control community is satisfied with the efficiency of this measure.
Between 1965, when the first health warnings were requested on packets of cigarettes in the United States, and today, substantial progress and graphic health warnings are recognised as a good practice to raise awareness on the harmful effects of tobacco, as indeed as per popular say, an image is worth a thousand words.
Senegal is the 7th African country to adopt graphic health warnings, following Mauritius, Madagascar, Namibia, Seychelles, Chad and Kenya. In Senegal, these warnings cover 70% of the main surface of tobacco products packaging.
Senegal records major progress in tobacco control, a fight led by governmental authorities and civil society. Besides graphic health warnings, Senegal also began implementing a ban on smoking in public spaces or spaces open to the public or for collective use, work, and public transport. This measure is also efficient and signs were produced jointly by the National Tobacco Control Programme and civil society organisations, including the Senegalese Tobacco Control League (LISTAB).
The African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) is pleased by the progress made by Senegal and will continue to support the government and civil society. Indeed, through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant to strengthen tobacco control policies in Africa, ACBF supports 2 projects in Senegal. The first one, implemented by PNLT, supports the Senegalese government in the implementation of tobacco control laws, to lower tobacco consumption. The specific objectives of this project are to:
(1) Ensure a better coordination of tobacco control activities in Senegal;
(2) Create an enabling environment for the implementation of the tobacco control law;
(3) Support the implementation of key provisions of the tobacco control law.
The second project is aligned to ACBF’s Pillar no 3 of the 2017-2023 Strategy, which aims to improve the private sector and civil society’s contributions to sustainable development. The goal of this project is to build LISTAB’s individual and institutional capacity to make it a reliable partner for the government for the implementation of tobacco control.
A lot remains to be done if we want to reduce smoking prevalence for a better prevention and a better control of tobacco-induced non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in Senegal as well as in the African region. This is the goal of ACBF, and it will continue to work with other partners and the World Health organization for an effective implementation of the FCTC in the African region.