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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 17:52 GMT
Why do we still smoke in Africa?
Man smoking
More people in Africa are taking up smoking
With tobacco advertising banned in many Western countries, cigarette manufacturers are increasingly targeting countries in Africa.

And more and more Africans are taking up the habit.

African countries are experiencing the highest increase in the rate of tobacco use amongst developing countries.

Cigarette smoking in Africa - in particular in countries like Egypt and Nigeria - is growing by a record 3.5% a year, according to the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking cigarettes kills almost five million people worldwide every year and drains the continent's already impoverished public health services as the cost of treating tobacco-related disease soars.

Some African countries are trying to stop their citizens from becoming smokers.

Tanzania and Uganda have banned smoking in public places and countries like Ghana, Kenya and Mauritius have ratified the WHO tobacco control treaty, which promises to increase tax on tobacco sales, introduce smoking bans and reduce tobacco production.

But Malawi - the world's biggest grower of burley tobacco, used by manufacturer as a filler in cigarettes - has not. It fears the millions of people who depend on tobacco for their livelihoods will be pushed into poverty.

BBC Africa Live is asking: What made you start smoking? What made you stop smoking? Should smoking be banned? And what would a ban mean for the farmers who grow tobacco?

Join the BBC Africa Live debate on Wednesday 23 March at 1630 GMT & 1830 GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments - and your personal stories - some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Africans have so much stress that maybe the only remedy would be to smoke a cigarette to ease the pain.
Henock Assefa, Atlanta, USA
With all the sins in Africa, smoking may actually be the least worrisome. The continent is in a shambles due to tyrants, corrupt officials, AIDS, famine and poverty. Africa and its people have so much stress that maybe the only remedy would be to smoke a cigarette to ease the pain.
Henock Assefa, Atlanta, USA

Smoking kills. It causes debilitating diseases and sucks up vital income that could be spent on much needed education and nutrition in developing nations. I support a total ban on public smoking and a programme to help African tobacco farmers transfer to a less harmful product.
Erin Starks, Washington DC, USA

Targeting Africans with a habit that is dying a natural death in many Western countries should not be seen as a coincidence. Tobacco companies will do just great in some African countries. Greedy government officials, profit-thirsty cigarette manufacturing companies, and a collection of vulnerable communities - what a perfect match. Shame on the African leaders who granted the business licences in the first place.
Mohamed Bah, Songo, Sierra Leone

While in school, I shared a room with three cousins who smoked every hour for ten years. When asked while they smoked, they said it made girls view them as responsible and drove away evil spirits. I decided to smoke and see what it would do for me. It was the worst mistake I ever made in my life. For the two days I smoked, I sneezed so hard that I had to be hospitalised. My experience with cigarettes didn't boost my status or drive away evil spirits; it sent me to the hospital! I hope kids all over Africa will step up and say 'no' to smoking.
Moses Fully, Liberia/USA

The tobacco industry realises that western countries are no longer receptive and therefore have turned their greedy pockets to Africa to take advantage of weak rules and regulations. We had better wake up and recognise their greed for what it is.
Aboagyewa, Accra, Ghana

I went to a cinema in Freetown, Sierra Leone and it was like a chimney.
Joseph Kaifala, Saratoga Springs, USA
I think most people smoke in Africa because of daily social problems. My father used to smoke more cigarettes whenever there was a growing social difficulty that he wanted to ease his conscience about. So I have grown to believe that there is a correlation between social difficulty and smoking. I also believe that people should be allowed to smoke if they choose to do so, but there should be bans on smoking in public areas out of respect for non-smokers. I went to a cinema in Freetown, Sierra Leone and it was like a chimney.
Joseph Kaifala, Saratoga Springs, USA

The ecstasy and stimulation that one gets from the cancer stick cannot be explained to a non smoker. But I have known several people, including my uncle, who have lost their lives because of smoking. We have war, poverty, and HIV/AIDS to devastate us already. So let us be wise and call it quits.
Jacobs Mwambegele, Manchester, UK

Smoking is growing in Africa because of the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing and promotional activities, as well as the low taxes on tobacco. The tobacco industry has been using advertising and promotional activities to specifically target African youths.
Oluwafemi Matthew Akinbode, Lagos, Nigeria

According to the Southern Sudanese, when a visitor comes into your house you should give water and tobacco before a meal.
Reuben Abot, Melbourne, Australia

I am really sad when I see people, especially young ones, smoking in Ghana. It is a habit that wastes one's resources because you become addicted, as I have experienced with my father. In Ghana, the poor are getting hooked onto tobacco yet they earn meagre incomes. It's a big problem.
Roland Walker, Accra, Ghana

As a former smoker who quit two years ago, I think smoking should be banned in public places for the sake of those wise enough to avoid it. For those stupid enough to continue, there should be stiff taxes on tobacco products. Most of my smoking friends say they tried to quit but can't, yet I think they are living in denial.
Ken, Cape Town, South Africa

Kenyans smoke because of the lack of jobs.
Sarah, Kenya

To protect non-smokers from passive smoking, we might need to regulate smoking habits.
Dan Ghambi, Malawi
Being a Malawian, I feel there is no need to stop tobacco growing. If we stopped, our economy will come to a halt! We have not yet identified a replacement for tobacco. However, to protect those non-smokers from passive smoking, we might need to regulate smoking habits, such as banning public smoking.
Dan Ghambi, Malawi

Smoking cigarettes is increasing everyday in Sudan.
Musa, Khartoum, Sudan

It is a wonder how one can regard cigarettes - which have been scientifically and historically proven to do more harm than good - to be an asset to Africa. Cigarettes do bring economic returns, but these returns largely accrue to the multinationals instead of some small African farmers. br />Ji Yuan, Shanghai, China

I sincerely believe that tobacco should be banned forthwith all over Africa. We Africans always try to imitate the Europeans thereby putting ourselves in danger and difficulty. Here in Abidjan, even girls of about 11 years do smoke heavily. I once smoked but I have found out that it is not good for my health.
Prince , Abidjan, Ivory Coast

I started smoking as a youth as part of my teenage rebellion. I quit smoking three months ago because smoking, though pleasurable, is not a habit that will get you anywhere good in life. Smoking should not be banned because governments should not act like overzealous parents. But anti-smoking campaigns should be just as effective, vociferous and widespread as smoking advertisements.
Elsie Eyakuze, Brighton, UK

I don't know why people still begin smoking. Here in Brazil, we can see the disadvantages of smoking everywhere: on television, radio and cigarette packets. I think that smoking should be banned as soon as possible.
Jaqueline Ivanir Hahn, Dois Irmãos, Brazil

Because of glamorous adverts, many smokers still think they can get success by smoking.
Olayinka Oyegbile, Lagos, Nigeria
Many people still smoke in Africa because they don't have enough knowledge of the evil of the act. In 2003, I received a World Health Organisation Journalism Fellowship to study the health and economic implications of smoking in Nigeria and Africa generally. I was able to see in detail the dangers that smokers are exposed to. However, because of the glamorous adverts, many smokers still think they can get success by smoking.
Olayinka Oyegbile, Lagos, Nigeria

Most African youths smoke because of peer pressure. I personally believe it is stupid and unhealthy.
Paul Tanyi, Normal, USA

Tell me how you will convince a tobacco farmer to discontinue growing the crop when it's the only product that has a ready market?
Che Sunday, San Francisco U.S.A

Think of the effects on non smokers who have to breathe the second hand smoke. Smokers, why are you killing your brothers, sisters, and your children? Let's make the world smoke-free.
Manyok Gak, South Dakota, USA

I'm from a big grower of tobacco - Malawi. I think we should keep growing it until the biggest weapon manufacturers stop their production because they cause death at a faster rate than cigarettes. Is that a deal?
Ntoga, Blantyre, Malawi

More public awareness efforts should be made to underline the problems that smoking can cause.
Onyekachi, Illinois, USA
The price for tobacco should go up. That way, the tobacco growers would not lose and those who smoke "just for the fun of it" would have to think twice about pouring their resources in something that is bound to kill them or greatly harm them financially and health-wise. More public awareness efforts should be made to underline the problems that smoking can cause. We are already poor in Africa; there is no need to aggravate our poverty by getting into habits that we cannot afford and that harm us and those around us. If governments ban public smoking - and enforce it - maybe we can weed out a good number of our smokers.
Onyekachi, Illinois, USA

People who are addicted will do whatever they can to get a cigarette, no matter what the price. Therefore increasing taxes on tobacco sold to individuals in Africa would only slightly solve the problem. I think the solution should be intense public education.
Oka, Ghana

Those who have opted to smoke because of stress should seek better ways of soothing their nerves instead of smoking themselves to death and, worse still, affecting non smokers with their fumes. Certainly there is no prestige in smoking. We should blame Hollywood for glamorising smoking and other vices, not Africa.
Shuttie F.N.Libuta, Kitwe Zambia

My point of view is: let anyone that wants to kill himself with smoke continue. After all, his life belongs to him, so go on and smoke yourself to death. It's not my problem. It is, however, the duty of the government and everyone else not to allow any under-aged people to smoke.
Adebanjo, Lagos, Nigeria.

I noticed a positive shift in attitudes towards smoking during my recent visit to Africa. It was less glorified in the community I visited. However, there were numerous billboards with cigarette advertisements in strategic places such as stadiums and around schools.
Mustapha Hydara, Seattle, USA/Gambia

First you need to provide an alternate way of making money for the tobacco farmers.
Amanuel, Baltimore, USA
Instead of closing tobacco farms and putting even more people in poverty, first you need to provide an alternate way of making money for the farmers. If you simply close down farms, the old cycle of unemployment and poverty will resurface again in Africa. Until health education is increased, smoking will not end in Africa.
Amanuel, Baltimore, USA

Nicotine and its affiliates certainly need to be made a taboo in Africa. Our medical capabilities are already overstretched by problems such as HIV/AIDS, TB etc. I believe from personal experience that Africa has the world's biggest number of underage smokers.
Manoj, Alabama,USA/Kenya

Stop now while you still can! It is easy to become addicted to nicotine and this addiction leads to many deaths from emphysema, lung cancer and various other cancers. Also, think about the economic side effects; increased health care costs and the total amount of money spent on this addiction during a person's lifetime. When you do the math, you will find that you could retire much earlier in life on the money that will have been spent on smoking.
Doug Fisher, Asheville, USA

The sad fact is that poverty is the greatest killer. Most African countries do not have a life expectancy past the age of 50. Any harmful affect tobacco may have on a person usually does not surface until later in life. Until poverty is erased, tobacco use in Africa is a moot point.
Robert Powers, Iowa City, US

Tobacco is a great crop that has helped millions of people around the globe to make a living for themselves and their families.
Chris, Cupertino, US
Tobacco consumption is the last issue that Africa needs to be concerned with. Any source of income should be embraced by African governments. Africans should establish marketing companies to push their various tobacco products within their countries and internationally as well. Tobacco is a great crop that has helped millions of people around the globe to make a living for themselves and their families. The taxes these products bring in help governments with projects that help their people.
Chris, Cupertino, US

Smoking is a health hazard and the first step to be taken by all governments worldwide should be to ban tobacco farming and close down all companies making cigarettes. Banning smoking in public will not stop the tobacco-related diseases.
Kisanya Vincent, Nairobi, Kenya

Why not put a penalty system on cigarettes sold in Africa, hitting multinational producers until the killer companies are discouraged from expanding here?
Marco, Addis Ababa,
The assets of cigarette companies in Africa are in the west. International treaties involving fines are being put into practice rather effectively on global issues such as carbon dioxide emissions. So why not put a penalty system on cigarettes sold in Africa, hitting multinational producers until the killer companies are discouraged from expanding here? Maybe it won't work but unless something is done the companies will sell more and more cigarettes in Africa, as markets elsewhere stop buying so much.
Marco, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In Nigeria one comedian once said on cigarette packs you used to read "cigarette smoking is harmful to your health" but now that warning has been changed to "smokers are liable to die young". So due to economic hardship and the like, more of the young ones have turned to smoking. According to him, smokers nowadays ask for the one with the later warning. It may sound funny, but I think there is a point there.
Joseph Justice Ansah, Ghana, currently in Lagos

I tasted cigarettes during my 10th year Christmas celebration. Pall Mall, a well-known brand in my country Liberia at the time, was my father's favourite. He said smoking was the best thing to ever do in life, thus tempting a curious and smart child who always wants to be like his dad. The second attempt, at the age of 12, was influenced by a superstitious belief that smoking drove away bad spirits.
Alfred Gayflor, Barcelona, Spain

Smoking is bad for the youth. Cigarettes were a stepping stone for me and my friends to smoke cannabis. Our first cigarattes were free from a promotional group. Teenagers like to explore, so we did. Africa should send the nicotine OUT!!!
Assan Jallow, Gambia

Although I don't smoke, most of my friends do. One day I asked one of my friends why he takes pleasure in smoking? He said: 'The white man I was living with used to smoke too much, and I thought smoke had something, and from that day until now it has become part of me.' From this explanation I believe most people smoke because of what I may call 'The African photocopy syndrome.'
Stephen Bendah, Liberian in Accra

I would suggest closing down all the tobacco farms and manufacturing plants.
Ono Orogun, London, England
Why ban smoking? Who does it benefit? I would suggest closing down all the tobacco farms and manufacturing plants. Who will lose in it all? I bet it is just the few people that work in the industry.
Ono Orogun, London, England

It is such an irony that we in the tropical parts of the world prefer to use our noses as chimneys. Africa is almost always hot and so there is no need for us to smoke.
Mantey, Accra, Ghana

In Ghana, where smoking is still seen as a 'moral issue', it amazes me that more people, especially teenagers, are taking to it. But the funny thing is that my friends who smoke hide it. Smoking should be banned outright. The effects are unspeakable, especially to Africans who have poor access to health care.
Elinam Schlossberg, Lisbon, Portugal

Every smoker knows the effect of tobacco smoke on his or her health. Those who manufacture the stuff are simply taking advantage of people's stupidity. Government should tax each pack heavily so much so that the consumer pays the equivalent of $10 a pack in hard currency. Do not waste medical resources meant for those who value their lives.
Charles Massaquoi, USA

I'm an ex-smoker, and whenever there were no cigarettes around I was able to reduce my rate of smoking. I therefore recommend that the production of tobacco be entirely prohibited.
M. Isaac, Gaborone, Botswana.

I think I started smoking because of alcohol drinking. I just felt like stopping because I realised it was no good for my heath. It should be banned especially in Africa where even 10-year-old boys smoke. Tobacco farmers can be advised to venture into other farming alternatives.
Boiface Keakabetse, Gaborone, Botswana

Although my father is the one of local tobacco producers in Upper Nile, Southern Sudan, I strongly support a ban on smoking in public places.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota,USA

The rate is increasing in Africa because we are blindly copying the behaviour of the developed countries.
Bosch, Botswana
I think the rate of smoking in Africa is a drop in the ocean as compared to smoking in developed countries. However the rate is increasing in Africa because we are blindly copying the behaviour of the developed countries. I used to smoke about two years back. My rate of smoking actually increased when I was in Scotland some four years back. I had to stop because of health reasons. I would like to urge my fellow Africans to drop the habit of smoking because there is nothing 'cool' about smoking. We in Botswana have long banned smoking in public areas. Smoking can not be banned all together because farmers who grow tobacco would starve.
Bosch, Botswana

It is not just Africans who still smoke. You should see the South Koreans and other countries. Anti tobacco should be a world wide campaign
Zebedi Muga, Cheonan City, South Korea

A lot of people still smoke in developing countries because the government is not doing enough to enlighten citizens about the dangers of smoking. Ignorance is just as dangerous as smoking itself. A lot of people who smoke either pick the habit from their family or peers. With the health implication associated with smoking, there is no doubt that it should be banned outright. People should realise that health is wealth and prevention is better than cure. A ban would mean that tobacco farmers should seek alternative to tobacco farming such as coffee, Tea, cotton and cocoa.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, US

Smoking should be banned world-wide. It causes cancer and shortens one's life span.
Neal Kelley, Atlanta, US

Those who smoke should pay extra taxes when they buy tobacco products and the money should go towards paying for future tobacco-related health problems.
E. Julu Swen, Monrovia

I am 43 years now and I started smoking as a youth -- all because my friends were smoking. I used to share my resources (recess money as we call it in Liberia) with a group of friends, but because I had to support my smoking habit this had became a problem. One day, after school, the only money available to all of us was the money I had. It was at that point that the decision to stop smoking was made. As an ex-smoker I think smoking should be banned in public places. Those who smoke should pay extra taxes when they buy tobacco products and the money should go towards paying for future tobacco-related health problems. I think it is about time that we ask whether tobacco can serve any other purpose other than smoking. The answer to this question can lift tobacco grower out of the poverty they so fear.
E. Julu Swen, Monrovia, Liberia




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