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African Youth Ambassadors Renew Tobacco Control Advocacy Pledge


The African Youth Ambassadors (AYAs) forum has reaffirmed its commitment to tobacco control advocacy.

Members of the forum made the pledge on March 1, 2024, during an interactive, informative, and educative Twitter/X Space hosted by AYAs.

AYAs is a youth-led initiative that advocates for a Tobacco-Free Africa through the enactment of strong policies and enforcing compliance, one country at a time.

It currently has membership in four countries – Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia & South Africa – and through its members’ collective efforts, it strives to create a healthier future for African nations by combating the scourge of tobacco addiction and its associated health risks.

Its multinational presence also empowers the group to address tobacco control challenges at both local and regional levels, leveraging insights from varied contexts to inform advocacy strategies effectively.

The X Space conversation focused on the increasing use of tobacco among the youth, and participants gave different reasons for why young people smoke.

They cited, among others, peer pressure, and susceptibility to influence. It was also noted that there is a false belief among some youths that when they smoke before taking alcohol, they will not become easily intoxicated.

A participant also gave an example of how someone who was obese decided to smoke to reduce weight which seemed to work, but the person became addicted to cigarettes and other dangerous substances that later affected him negatively.

The conversation also explored why youths are being targeted by the tobacco industry. It was agreed that the industry sees youths as the replacement strategy for its old and dying customers.

Also explored were the industry’s tactics for recruiting young minds, some of which include how glamorizing their products by making them fanciful and inviting. As well as adding flavours to the products.

Other strategies include using the digital space and influencers, the entertainment industry and brand placements in movies, musical videos and more.

It was emphasised that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Smoking was also identified as increasing the risk of tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.

It was also the consensus of participants that persons interacting closely with smokers are exposed to second-hand smoke and are equally susceptible to the same health risks as the person smoking.

Finally, participants suggested ways to curb the tobacco menace in society, including by engaging in peer-to-peer engagement, education, sensitization, and advocating for enforcement of tobacco control laws like the National Tobacco Control Act 2015 and National Tobacco Control Regulation 2019.

On a final note, everyone was charged to contribute to tobacco control advocacy using the opportunity to speak to people one-on-one and educate people on the dangers of smoking.

AYA’s central mission is to elevate young African voices in the fight against tobacco addiction. The forum “believes in the power of youth engagement and activism as catalysts for social change. By amplifying the voices of young advocates across the continent, we aim to galvanize widespread support for tobacco control measures and foster a culture of health and well-being. Together, we are united in our mission to create a future where every African can thrive in a tobacco-free environment.”

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