Ethiopian Lawmakers Enact Anti-Tobacco Law

The Ethiopian House of Representatives has reportedly ratified the World Health Authority’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which places limitations on the sale and use of cigarettes.

Besides a ban on smoking in public, the proclamation also includes plans of increasing taxes on cigarette and initiating public campaigns against the hazards of smoking.

Campaigns against smoking cigarettes have been gaining ground in sub-Saharan African countries in the past few years.

According to experts, given that the market for cigarettes in the western world is well defined, the search for more consumers is quickly spreading to Africa and Asia, where lack of education, poverty and weak legislation makes it relatively easy for tobacco companies to make huge profits.

In December 2013, when the draft bill was initially brought before the house, Ethiopian lawmakers expressed disappointment that the country had stalled in ratifying the convention.

Like many other African nations, Ethiopia had signed onto the convention in 2004, but failed to ratify it, until now.

Somewhat ironically, experts say the new law will most severely affect Ethiopia’s National Tobacco Enterprise – the largest cigarette dealer in the country, in which the state is reported to have a 60% interest.

According to a 2012 estimate, over 6 million sticks of cigarettes are smoked in Ethiopia yearly, and a majority of them are brands of the National Tobacco Enterprise.

Although people have smoked in Africa for thousands of years, smoking is quickly re-emerging as a popular culture, partly supported by globalisation.

Protests against the practice have gained foothold following reports of an increase in the rate of smoking among women and young people in the past decade.

Several other African nations including Uganda, Senegal, Namibia, Chad, Seychelles, Ghana, Nigeria, Mauritius and South African have reportedly also made attempts to enact restrictions against cigarettes.

Photo by Capital FM.