As Biya Cautions Youth Against Hard Drugs: C3T Pushes Advocacy For Graphic Images Rotation, Promulgation Of Anti-Tobacco Law

Feb 27, 2024

Tobacco Industry uses aggressive marketing strategies to lure kids into smoking

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

In the wake of President Paul Biya’s message to young Cameroonians on the occasion of the 2024 national youth day calling on them to desist from the consumption of hard drugs, the Cameroonian Coalition for Tobacco Control, C3T has applauded the call by pushing advocacy for rotation of graphic health images; and the tabling and promulgation of a national anti-tobacco law in the country. 

The Head of State had in that message of last February 10 also called on government officials to do everything to stiffly combat the use of hard drugs ruining the lives of young Cameroonians.

Commending President Biya’s message, and harping on summary findings of the June 2023 38-page report on “Tobacco Industry Interference Index” in Cameroon by C3T, the Communication Officer, Prince Mpondo told The Post on February 23, 2024 in Yaounde that the implementation of the regulation on graphic health labels in line with article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC; is strongly influenced by the Tobacco industry. He said the industry imposes its own deadlines on the authorities thereby disrupting the cycle of rotation of images on graphic health warnings provided for in the regulation.

Graphic health labels concerns pictorial health warnings on tobacco product packaging. The new regulation stipulates that pictorial health warnings must cover 70% of the front and rear faces of the packaging unit 4. Mpondo noted that its implementation is facing several obstacles due to tobacco industry interference and administrative tolerance.

He narrated that the tobacco industry has since September 2018 benefited from the extensions of deadlines to comply. He recalled that the entry into force of the first set of images initially scheduled for January 3, 2019 was pushed to June 12, 2019 following pressure from the tobacco industry. 

“This led to the signing of a joint circular of September 13, 2018 granting an additional 6 months to the industry to comply. For the 2nd series of images that started on June 12, 2021, the tobacco industry has obtained, in secret, from the health authorities, first a period of 6 months (June 12-December 12, 2021) and then two others of three months each (December 2021- March 2022) and (April-June 2022) to comply with the regulations. 

“…The images of the 2nd series would have circulated for only 12 months, whereas the regulation provides for 24 months for a series. The implementation of the 3rd series of images as of June 12, 2023 was and is still  uncertain because the text from the Ministry of Public Health that specifies the images adopted has still not been signed…” by the time of filing this report. Urging health Minister to act fast for the interest of the population, Mpondo said the actions of the tobacco industry seriously compromises the achievement of the objectives set through the regulation on graphic health warnings.

On her part the Executive Secretary of C3T, Judith Chekumo, still making reference to the report that was realised thanks to support from the African Tobacco Control Alliance, ATCA; the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control (GGTC) and Vital Strategies, regretted that Cameroon does not have a national anti-tobacco law. She said “the draft text drawn up since 2011 by the various stakeholders has never seen completion. The same is true of the text implementing the 2006 law governing tobacco and tobacco product advertising, which has been waited for, for 17 years. 

The Post gathered that the draft text was reportedly sent to the Presidency for endorsement and transmission to parliament for debate, adoption and eventual promulgation into law. Tobacco control stakeholders have repeatedly expressed fear that the document may be missing at the level of the Presidency.

“These two major unfinished projects are threatened by the tobacco industry’s maneuvers. These maneuvers are partly facilitated by the absence of national regulations to implement the provisions of article 5.3 of the FCTC. The present report should therefore enable the country’s political decision makers to take steps to limit tobacco industry interference and advance public policy on tobacco,” Chekumo added.

The C3T officials are of the opinion that the draft text on national anti-tobacco law needs to be updated considering new developments since 2011 such as the advent of e-cigarettes and the proliferation of shisha consumption spots.

In Cameroon, the prevalence of smoking is high with 1,100,000 adults who are tobacco users, that is 8.9% and 7,000,000 people who are victims of passive smoking in public places. Among young people, the prevalence is 10.1% or 300,000 smokers aged between 13 and 15 years. According to health authorities, smoking is responsible for 66,000 deaths a year in Cameroon. According to the WHO 2022 report on progress in the fight against Non-Communicable Diseases, NCDs, Cameroon records about 74,100 deaths annually linked to NCDs of which tobacco is one of the main contributing factors. This situation represents a real burden for the national healthcare system.