The figure was noted on Wednesday, May 31, by WHO Africa’s regional director, Matshidiso Moeti, The Press Nigeria reports.
In her message to commemorate ‘World No Tobacco Day’, celebrated every May 31, Moeti said the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health challenges the world has ever faced.
According to her, no fewer than eight million people, including Nigerians, die globally every year.
Moeti said the organisation joined the rest of the international community to commemorate the day with the theme ‘Grow food, not tobacco’.
The WHO official stated that the theme aimed to raise awareness about alternative crop production and marketing opportunities for tobacco farmers and encourage them to grow sustainable, nutritious crops.
According to her, the theme also seeks to expose the tobacco industry’s efforts to interfere with attempts to substitute tobacco growing with sustainable crops, thereby worsening the global food crisis.
“It calls on all of us to explore how food and agricultural policies make adequate nutritious food and healthy diets available while reducing tobacco production,” Moeti said.
According to her, Africa is experiencing an increase. For instance, Moeti noted that adult smokers increased in the WHO African region from an estimated 64 million in 2000 to 73 million in 2018.
“The tobacco industry’s strong marketing campaigns and increased tobacco product production are also contributing factors to this,’’ she noted, appealing to tobacco-growing countries in the Africa Region to step up the implementation of Articles 17 and 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
According to her, such can be done by enacting legislation, developing and implementing suitable policies and strategies, and enabling market conditions for tobacco farmers to shift to growing food crops.
The WHO director added that such would help their families with a better life while enhancing the protection of the environment and people’s health.
“With such action, we will be growing food, which our populations need, not tobacco,’’ Moeti said.