BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, June 21 (IPS) – Tobacco smuggling has emerged as one of the most lucrative businesses between Zimbabwe and South Africa, with border authorities seizing millions of dollars in contraband within Lately year.
Last month, South African police confiscated cigarettes worth ZAR1.7 million (about 105,000 USD) from Zimbabwean smugglers who have been taking advantage of the porous border controls between the two South African nations for years.
In November last year, another Zimbabwean was arrested when he tried to smuggle in valuable cigarettes 30 million ZAR (about 1.850,000 USD) into South Africa, where there is a ready and expanding tobacco market.
The following month, another Zimbabwean was caught smuggling valuable cigarettes 2.6 million ZAR ($160,300) to South Africa. The escalation of the smuggling movement shows the complexity not only of border control but also of how tobacco and tobacco are proving to be the new gold for organized crime.
As global anti-tobacco lobbying grows amid concerns about unabated tobacco-related deaths, researchers are focusing on tobacco consumption and its effects on health. public health and national economy.
In a new report from the University of Chicago, researchers created a Tobacco map After surveying 63 countries, the global number of smokers now exceeds 1.1 billion.
While, according to the researchers, global smoking rates are falling, from 22.6% in 2007 to 19.6% in 2019, Africa and other developing regions of the world are seeing a decline. increase in tobacco consumption, the report said.
The findings are likely to cause concern for African governments, where public health services are struggling. The Tobacco Atlas researchers raise concerns about tobacco-related illnesses and deaths in developing countries.
Tobacco-related diseases are expected to increase in the coming years in countries with low Human Development Index scores, the Tobacco Atlas researchers predict.
“Several African countries are seeing an increase in adult and youth smoking. What we see in Africa is the slowest decline in smoking rates of any region,” said Professor Jeffrey Dope, lead author of the Tobacco Atlas and professor of public health at the University of Illinois said.
“The tobacco industry is well aware of this. They are working very hard to convince governments that tobacco is very important to the economy. Unfortunately, they’re having some success,” said Dope during the launch of the Zoom report earlier this month.
“Global progress is threatened by the increasing prevalence of smoking among 13- to 15-year-olds in many countries and by tobacco industry tactics such as targeting poor countries with weak regulatory environments,” the researchers said.
“We have countries where teenage girls smoke more than young men and women,” said Violeta Vulovic, senior economist at the Institute for Health Policy and Research at the University of Chicago. This is happening in different parts of the world.
“The tobacco industry aggressively markets to children, especially through flavored products. And through social media, especially influencers, it’s clear to the industry that the peer-to-peer effect is probably the most effective way to get kids to try smoking,” says Vulovic.
World Health Organization (WHO) says tobacco causes more 8 million global deaths annually. More than “7 million won of these deaths are directly attributable to tobacco use, while around 1.2 million are the result of exposure to secondhand smoke by non-smokers”.
Covid-19 has only added to the global health challenges that have pushed the tobacco agenda to the periphery, researchers say.
Nandita Murukutla, one of the contributors to the Tobacco Atlas study, said: “As assessed by Covid-19, countries are prioritizing public health and investing in strategies that support health. and economic growth.
“For countries that want to recover, tobacco control should be on their agenda,” said Murukutla.
However, with African countries continuing to rely on tobacco for foreign exchange, the findings in the Tobacco Atlas are unlikely to convince governments to slow down the production of so-called “green gold. ”
University of Chicago researchers say one way to deal with the rise in smoking is to “increase taxes on cigarettes”.
“This is so that children are not likely to smoke. We know from decades of research that young people are very price sensitive,” says Vulovic.
This is already working in other African countries to stop the illegal tobacco trade, the researchers say.
Dope told IPS: “Countries should see Kenya as an example of a country that is successfully keeping tobacco taxes high and controlling the supply chain – less illegal trade – successful. “These modest investments in tax administration in Kenya have reaped enormous rewards in terms of increased tax revenue, which they then reallocate to social programs such as health and education, and other programs.
Report of the United Nations Office IPS
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