Cigarette smoking is not a majority choice of leisure in Africa.
Three years ago when the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued statistics, it was concluded there was no figures for the Africa region. The stats said 21 percent of the youths aged fifteen and above across the world smoke. That 48 percent of males in the Western Pacific region puff while in the European regions the habit is high among females, at 19 percent. The Western Pacific region consists of over 35 countries including Japan, Indonesia, China, Vietnam and Australia. Recently, China passed a law against public smoking.
What about Europe?
Many months ago, I asked why so many attractive women are fond of tobacco. I also narrated an incident where I had casually cautioned a young London based African lady on the hazards of smoking of which she irritatingly responded: “Why don’t you leave us alone?”
Last week I watched a special news programme on the French channel, TV5 regarding cigarette smoking in Africa. Regular presenter, Linda Giguere, interviewed French Tobacco Expert, Christian Chevalier who highlighted the growing dangers of smoking among African youths. Apparently, there is a sudden, growing trend of smoking on the continent, a tendency that was uncommon, two decades ago.
In 2013, a report by the American Cancer Society warned that although Africa is one of the least tobacco consuming places, “without aggressive intervention, the continent will experience a significant increase in smoking in the near future.” This surge, so evaluated Tobacco Expert, Christian Chevalier, could create major epidemics like, HIV and Tuberculosis. One viewer wondered what are the governments in Africa doing and whether leaders have a responsibility to prevent the current climb. “Africa is the Far West of cigarette smoking,” the French expert grimly alerted. He added that legislation is not yet strong on the continent, therefore youths smoke too. WHO tries to spread awareness of the dangers, but this is not “efficient enough...”
My take is that stress, partly contributes to this dependence on smoking to calm nerves. Watch any smoker. When partially distressed fingers will immediately fumble around pockets for a fag and a lighter. No, wonder the high number of smokers in places where life is very stressful. The busy, busy West Pacific region is a perfect example due to strides in industry and commerce. Check out the rise numbers of female smokers in Europe as stated by WHO figures. Does this mean stress levels are equally growing in Africa?
Governments across the world try to educate on the hazards of smoking but where is Africa right now? Is it because only a minority smokes?
Speaking of minorities and few, we should end with the recent FIFA World Cup event in Canada. This year’s contest ended last Sunday and featured 24 countries, among them three African nations, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. One of the saddest moment was Ivory Coast being thrashed ten goals nil by the Germans on 7th June. The brightest and cheerful occasion was seeing a somewhat underdogs England stretching out to beat traditional greats, Colombia, Mexico, Norway, Canada( the hosts with a cheering home crowd) and even Germany in the Third runners up on Saturday July 4th. Very inspiring. Inspiring to those of us who like football and what Americans the cup winners (against Japan), call soccer. This year’s tournament was fantastic. Women players are getting better, faster and efficient. Watching USA was exhilarating.
Although USA is regarded as a non-football nation, (they call their rough and tumble hand ball game football for Godsake!) and because of a widespread lack of interest, the sport is intensely loved and promoted for females. Best player of the clash was Carli Lloyd who scored a hat trick and a fantastic goal (from centre pitch) won the Golden Boot award. Coach, Jill Elis told BBC, winning the cup would encourage “every little girl who dreams.”
Despite all this fan and flair, the gnawing and never-ending question was why most women I spoke to were either unaware or uninterested in the tournament. As far as publicity is concerned one may argue, true the Canada event was not as hyped up as the ongoing Wimbledon tennis contest in London. Just like the Africa Cup of Nations or Copa America, (Chile beat Argentina on penalties) it was mostly shown in specialist channels like BBC3 and late at night. Part of the problem stems from football being traditionally a man’s game across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa.
However, things are changing. England did manage to get third place whereas their male counterparts have hardly reached semi finals for over twenty years. When we speak of progress and empowerment, this beautiful game, should surely be cheered by the very women who the Canada championship excellently, promoted.
-Published in Citizen Tanzania July 2015