CAPPA – Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa

Empowering the Media to combat Tobacco use

From February 8 -10, 2022, the CAPPA and the Nigeria Tobacco Control Alliance (NTCA) communication teams alongside communication specialists and journalists from Burkina Faso, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Senegal, Togo, and The Gambia participated in a learning event organised by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) in Lomé, Togo. The event brought together media practitioners and journalists working on tobacco control across West and Central Africa to foster learning on the tobacco pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO)Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), tobacco industry interference, and the role of the media in combating tobacco use and identifying communication narratives. [spacer height=”25px”]

At the outset of the event, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, who has vast years of experience in media and policy advocacy delivered a presentation titled ‘‘The Tobacco Epidemic and the WHO FCTC’’. The presentation centered on the impacts of tobacco use on the health system,  economy, and environment, including the contributions of the WHO FCTC in mitigating the global tobacco epidemic.[spacer height=”25px”]

Oluwafemi’s intervention revealed that worldwide, tobacco accounts for approximately 7 million deaths which costs the global economy about US$1.4 trillion annually. Smoking, one of the most common forms of tobacco use is linked to different ailments such as heart disease, cancer, lung failure, infertility, and a slew of other unhealthy conditions.  According to recent research, 80 percent of tobacco deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, especially in Africa.


Overall, tobacco’s social and health costs surpass its economic benefits by a large margin.  It is on this premise that the WHO FCTC came into force on February 27, 2005, as a legally binding treaty that requires parties to implement evidence-based measures as well as invest in international cooperation, technology transfer, and related expertise to mitigate the global tobacco pandemic. Key provisions that parties to the WHO FCTC are required to implement include:[spacer height=”25px”]

  • Protecting the public health from the commercial and vested interest of the tobacco industry as outlined in Article 5.3 of the treaty.
  • Putting in place smoke-free environments that protect against tobacco smoke as highlighted in Article 8 of the convention.
  • The implementation of large, clear, rotating pictorial health warnings and messages that cover 50% or more of the principal display areas of tobacco packs as recommended in Article 11 of the treaty.
  • Article 13 of the treaty also requires parties to implement a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion except for certain communication such as a movie depiction of historical facts.[spacer height=”25px”]

Although many African countries have signed and ratified the WHO-FCTC, only a few African countries have made concrete efforts to further support the convention by domesticating it and ensuring the active enforcement of strategies to curb domestic tobacco consumption. Parties are encouraged to rev up domestic tobacco control actions by adopting a multisectoral approach to implement the provisions of the WHO FCTC in their economies. Monitoring country-level implementation of the WHO FCTC is especially expected of journalists who, as watchdogs of the society, must work together with anti-tobacco groups and relevant regulatory authorities to guarantee a tobacco-free world.[spacer height=”25px”]


Associate Director, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), Belinda Moses, accentuated the role of the media in tobacco control in her presentation She explained that media communications play a key role in influencing societal attitudes on tobacco use or control, even as she added that communication specialists and journalists can shine the light on the tobacco menace by developing simple and engaging communication campaigns that provide education for various audiences on the dangers of tobacco use.[spacer height=”25px”]

To buttress Belinda’s presentation, Achieng Otieno, a discussant from Kenya shared with participants, knowledge gained from the experiences of journalists who countered duplicitous tactics of the tobacco industry in Kenya. When the tobacco industry embarked on activities such as media manipulation, disinformation, lobbying of lawmakers, and hijacking of legislative processes that threatened to sabotage the tobacco control agenda in the country, tobacco control advocates in Kenya utilised social media, newspapers, radio, television, emails to craft dynamic messages that alerted the society on the threats and impacts of tobacco use.[spacer height=”25px”]

The next presentation, Tobacco industry strategies and tactics delivered by Debra Rosen, Director, Take A Part, focused on interference techniques and strategies employed by the tobacco industry to undermine tobacco control campaigns across the globe. Some of the tactics used by the tobacco industry to resist both local and international regulations of their products include the hiring of lobbyists to influence public policy, using front groups and sham nonprofit organisations to oppose tobacco control measures, colluding with corrupt regulatory authorities to push for weaker tobacco control laws, engaging in corporate social responsibility actions to curry public solidarity, and sponsoring widespread misinformation campaigns that downplay the health harms of tobacco products among other schemes.[spacer height=”25px”]

Mark Hurley, International Director of Tobacco Industry Campaigns, CTFK, delivered a presentation on The big lie on new products. Mark’s intervention debunked narratives propagated by the tobacco industry on safe tobacco products. Despite claims by the tobacco industry on the harm reduction levels of new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn cigarettes, hookahs, there is no total safe tobacco consumption.[spacer height=”25px”]

A group exercise on Tobacco control media engagement facilitated by Phillip Jakpor, Director of Programmes, CAPPA, divided participants into country groups where they carried out a context analysis and identification of a major tobacco control issues in the focus country, mapping out opportunities and strategies for media engagement of the situation.


The second day of training opened with a brainstorming session that helped participants share individual experiences and challenges encountered in the process of executing tobacco control media actions in their respective countries. Subsequently, the session progressed into a presentation centered on developing a communication/advocacy plan for tobacco control. Belinda Moses led this discussion by highlighting six points necessary for developing an effective tobacco control communication strategy. They include supporting policy objectives around tobacco control, conducting strategic stakeholder and target audience mapping, designing and promoting actionable messages, grooming powerful messengers that can influence target audiences to take action, exploring reliable communication channels through which messages are disseminated to the target population, and finally, developing a solid work plan that outlines the strategies for achieving campaign actions.[spacer height=”25px”]

Claudio Tanca dived into Effective media reporting for tobacco control and provided important insights for engaging in tobacco industry monitoring and response as well as reporting. Claudia also emphasized the importance of exploring traditional media, social media among other communication channels to execute media advocacy campaigns that educate and shape debates on tobacco control, counter disinformation spread by tobacco businesses, and generally, implant knowledge of the dangers of tobacco use in public consciousness.


The event ended on the third day with presentations on Storytelling of tobacco control achievements, and Introduction to digital media advocacy delivered Leonce Sessou, Executive Secretary, ATCA, and Adewunmi Emoruwa of Gatefield Limited respectively. According to their presentations, a good storytelling campaign of tobacco control achievements documents campaign milestones, relevant primary and secondary data, including testimonies, striking images, and videos that evoke emotions that sensitize the general public to shun tobacco use. Digital storytelling presents media practitioners and communication specialists with invaluable opportunities to make use of videos, podcasts, creative words paired with beautiful videos to share impactful stories with a wide range of people from anywhere around the world.[spacer height=”25px”]

The training concluded with an award ceremony where certificates of participation were awarded to attendees.

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