More Africans risk dying from smoking as tobacco use will double over the next 12 years in a continent where 90 percent of people have no protection against second-hand smoke, experts said Wednesday.
Africa accounts for 14 percent of the world population and has only four percent of world smokers, presenting an opportunity to tackle the habit and reduce its effects, said Tom Glynn of the The Global Smokefree Partnership.
"If we don't act now on tobacco control in Africa, millions of lives will be lost because tobacco is now becoming an issue in Africa," Glynn told AFP.
A joint report by the Global Smokefree Partnership and the American Cancer Society (ACS) launched in Dar es Salaam called for smoking bans in public places, high taxes and doubling the price of cigarettes.
"Recent data suggests that, with current trends, more than half of the region of Africa will double its tobacco consumption within 12 years," said Dr Otis W. Brawley, an ACS chief medical officer.
"Smoke-free public places are one example of a low-cost and extremely effective intervention that must be implemented now to protect health," he added.
The report lauded efforts by some African countries to impose strict anti-smoking laws.
Kenya and Nigeria have in the past year enacted legislation against smoking in public places while South Africa has had the laws since 2007, but the report also said there were obstacles to the anti-smoking measures.
"In Abuja, Nigeria, for example, 55 percent of school students are not aware that second-hand smoke is harmful to health, and only one percent of Nigeria's population is protected by strong smoke-free laws," it said.
Next year, it is estimated that smoking will claim some six million lives worldwide, 72 percent of them in low- and middle-income countries, added the report.
"We know what the tobacco industry will do. It's very clear in its message and its aims to get as many smokers as possible. We need to counter the tobacco industry arguments," Glynn said.