Offline: A Plague Rises in Ethiopia
Posted by addisethiopia on November 3, 2013
“These posters would be illegal in the UK”
It’s time to revivify the campaign against tobacco in Africa. Last week a letter and photographs arrived from a physician in Ethiopia (who prefers to remain nameless). He writes:
“I work in Ethiopia and am bringing to your attention posters that have appeared in Addis Ababa over the past several months that advertise Rothmans cigarettes. These posters would be illegal in the UK. They target poor people, in line with the targeting of many developing countries by tobacco companies. The posters and words on the cigarette packs are in English, not in Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia). So health warnings are in a language that is not understandable by many poor Ethiopians. The health warning is printed in a very small area of the pack, on the side, and in barely visible gold lettering. I ask you to ponder the health consequences and costs to human lives and health care in developing countries if the prevalence of smoking increases from less than 10%, as it is now, to 25—30% or more as a result of British American Tobacco (BAT) marketing and advertising in poor countries. Last week, a 3-year-old girl came up to me clutching a pack of Rothmans to her chest: her poor mother was trying to sell them to me.”
According to Ethiopian news sources, the tobacco market in Ethiopia will grow substantially over coming years. Ethiopia’s National Tobacco Enterprise (NTE) has a monopoly on manufacturing and importing all tobacco products into the country. 78% of NTE is owned by the Ethiopian government. Which means the government is colluding in an epidemic of death among its own people, a truly extraordinary situation. NTE predicts, even boasts, accelerated sales of cigarettes over the next 5 years. Perversely, the company has said “our main focus is on social responsibility, rather than profit”. In January this year, Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs (and former Health) Minister, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, visited the UK. One of his meetings was a roundtable discussion with over 30 UK companies—one of which was BAT. Come on Tedros, my friend, end this charade.