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How Sub-Saharan Africa can significantly reduce its cigarette consumption

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Sub-Saharan Africa is poised to suffer a tobacco pandemic given the overall prevalence of cigarette consumption.

This is a result of the tobacco industry's aggressive marketing campaigns, rapid economic and population expansion, or both.

The demand for tobacco goods can be decreased by raising the excise duty on these items since higher taxes make tobacco products more expensive and hence less accessible.

Because fewer individuals start smoking and more people already smoke less, higher tobacco product prices lead to decreased smoking prevalence.

They also lessen the intensity of tobacco use by restricting the number of cigarettes that current smokers can afford to consume.

Although the link between price and demand for tobacco products is unfavourably correlated at worldwide level, authorities frequently require local data before adopting changes to their policies.

A reason for the observed policy stagnation in the domain of tobacco taxation on the continent may be the paucity of studies on the association between cigarette pricing and smoking outcomes in the African environment.

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The British Medical Journal Tobacco Control has released a new study by Samantha Filby of the University of Cape Town that aimed to fill this knowledge vacuum by examining the relationship between cigarette costs and smoking outcomes in eight sub-Saharan African nations.

Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda were among the nations analysed.

Cigarette costs are a statistically significant predictor of both smoking involvement and intensity, according to the study, which is based on a sample of 51 270 people from these eight African nations (the number of cigarettes smoked).

More specifically, the findings demonstrate that increasing cigarette costs are linked to declines in smoking prevalence and intensity among smokers in the examined nations, according to Filby.

To determine how sensitive cigarette consumption is to changes in cigarette costs, economists utilise a concept known as "price elasticity of cigarette demand".

According to Filby's estimation, the price elasticity of smoking prevalence in the sample is -0.362, which means that for the studied nations, a 10% rise in cigarette costs is linked to a 3.62% drop in smoking prevalence.

Regarding the intensity of smoking, she predicts that a 10% increase in cigarette pricing will result in a 1.33% decrease in the number of cigarettes smoked by current smokers.

The study also demonstrates that when a person smokes for longer periods of time, the less of an influence higher costs have on how many cigarettes they consume.

When considered as a whole, the data demonstrates that, for this sample of African nations, the impact of a price-led decline in cigarette demand is more significant for smoking prevalence than for smoking intensity.

Filby considers this to be fortunate. The epidemiology research unequivocally demonstrates that quitting smoking has a considerably higher positive effect on public health than cutting back on cigarette use.

"This finding makes an increase in the excise tax a more powerful weapon for decreasing cigarette usage than in those nations where the principal impact of a price increase is on lowering smoking intensity," the study's authors write.

Governments throughout the continent now have evidence about the connection between cigarette costs and smoking-related outcomes that is pertinent to their own communities.

The study highlights the need for African governments to raise excise taxes on tobacco products in order to deter smoking and, ultimately, prevent the continent from becoming the future epicentre of the tobacco epidemic.

This is because governments can affect the price of cigarettes by altering the excise tax.

Read the latest IOL Health digital magazine here.

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