In its efforts to snuff out tobacco use around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) will focus more attention on Africa in the hopes of stemming tobacco use and preventing it from becoming as widespread there as it is in other parts of the world, it said on Friday.

As part its campaign in Africa, WHO will help countries implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a global treaty that helps governments control the spread of tobacco use, and will set up a regional hub that has yet to be determined to assist them in implementing anti-smoking policies.

While tobacco use is not as prevalent in Africa as it is in other regions, it's only a matter of time before tobacco-related diseases become Africa's main killer, health officials say. Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for heart attacks, strokes, cancers, diabetes and asthma and other chronic diseases. By 2030, those diseases are expected to account for 46% of deaths in the 46 countries in WHO's Africa region, up from 25% in 2004, according to the organization.

But it's not simply a health problem, it's also a developmental and economic one, says Dr. Ala Alwan, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health:

"Tobacco breeds poverty, killing people in their most productive years. It consumes family and healthcare budgets. Also, money spent on tobacco products is money not spent on such essentials as education, food and medicine," he said in a statement.

Anti-smoking policies and regulations will include establishing smoke-free public places, bans on tobacco advertising and promotions, bans on sales of tobacco to children, as well as higher taxation on tobacco products.

Part of the campaign will be financed by a $10-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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