Despite the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes in single sticks by the World Health Organisation, a new report by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) has accused tobacco companies of flouting the regulation.
The report, released in Cape Town on Tuesday, identified the British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI), and Imperial Brands as the main perpetrators of the practice in 10 African countries surveyed.
The affected countries include Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, Niger, Kenya, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Cameroun, and Burkina Faso.
“Single stick cigarettes sales are problematic for a variety of reasons,” the report stated.
“Single sticks are cheaper than a full pack of cigarettes and, consequently, make tobacco more affordable to youth and other individuals with limited resources.
“The sale of cigarettes in single sticks makes it easy for young people to experiment the product and eventually become regular users.”
Deowan Mohee, the Executive Secretary of ATCA, said although many African countries have legislation banning the sale of cigarettes in single sticks, tobacco companies have continued to “openly flout” the laws.
“It’s not an African problem, it’s a global problem and we need to tackle it, especially from the civil society, we have to de-normalise the sale of single sticks of cigarette.”
Article 16 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control enjoined parties to ensure that the sale of single sticks or small packs of tobacco products is prohibited by passing and enforcing appropriate legislation.
The British American Tobacco Nigeria, the local subsidiary of BAT, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES requests for comments.
Last year, the Nigerian government introduced nine regulations, including a ban on the sale of cigarettes in single sticks, as part of moves to implement the National Tobacco Control.
The regulations, however, have continued to await the approval of the parliament.
The report came five months after a survey by the Nigerian Tobacco Control Research Group accused tobacco firms of evolving a new strategy of deliberating targeting the younger generation by situating their products near primary and secondary schools.
The tobacco industry denies the claims.
One man, one stick
According to the ATCA, the data for the new report was collected around locations where young people meet, such as malls, shopping centres, movie theatres, and game shops in the capital cities of the countries under study.
Three questionnaires were used for three different target groups to provide different perspectives on single stick availability in the respective countries.
The report stated that in all the capital cities where the research was carried out, single stick cigarettes could easily be purchased.
“Single sticks are made available for purchase when retailers intentionally open a full pack of cigarettes to sell individual sticks,” the report said.
“Single sticks are available from cigarette brands owned by British American Tobacco, Philip Morris International, and Imperial Brands.
“Among the multinational cigarette brands available for sale as single sticks, the most common are Benson & Hedges produced by BAT, Marlboro produced by PMI, and Davidoff produced by Imperial Brands.
“Of the tobacco retailers observed, Uganda had the most open cigarette packs followed by Togo and Nigeria. The sale of single sticks is prohibited in all these countries.”
The pervasiveness in the sale of the cigarettes in single sticks, according to the report, could be attributed to lack of awareness among retailers about the tobacco control law; lack of enforcement by authorities; or lack of prioritisation on enforcement.
The report identified one type of promotional material specifically linked to single sticks as the use of posters that advertise the price of single sticks of cigarettes.
“Promotion of single stick sale by BAT included a ‘buy one, get one free’ campaign and printing and distribution of posters to retailers advertising the price of a single cigarette in Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroun.
“In both of these countries, it was reported that the tobacco industry funded an advertising campaign that promoted the sale of single sticks at a ‘special price,’ three sticks for 100 CFA francs ($0.17).”
The report was conducted in partnership with civil society organisations in the 10 African countries and with support from the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK).
Bintou Camara, CTFK’s Director of Africa Programmes, urged an increased collaboration between the civil society, government, and the media to safeguard the health of citizens.
“The truth of the matter is when there is good, strong collaboration between the civil society, government, media, there can only be a good advancement of a true good cause and that’s where the media comes in,” Ms. Camara told PREMIUM TIMES.
“They can seek the information or they can be given the information but they are there to forward the voice of the public, of the children, of interest groups to higher grounds to tell the government what is going on.”