Over the past two decades, health activists have made some serious strides in loosening the harmful grip that tobacco companies have had over the American public. When I was coming up in the 80s there was no legal smoking age, you could buy cigarettes from a vending machine and Joe Camel advertisements were as common and child friendly as Ninja Turtles. These days, cigarettes are almost taboo. Joe Camel has been replaced with those disgusting truth.com ads that show what tar-filled lungs and fetuses looks like (nasty). Many major cities around the world have banned public smoking because of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, including heart disease, cancer, emphysema and other chronic and acute diseases. With addiction (and consequently business) dwindling in the west, corporate tobacco did what any smart business would do. Find a new market.
over the past 20 years, tobacco companies have aggressively marketed their products in Africa and other developing regions to compensate for the loss of sales in developed countries that have imposed smoking restrictions. Read entire BBC article here.
At least one African country, Nigeria, is challenging the increasing tobacco menace with an old American custom: the law suit. According to the the BBC, Nigeria’s government says it has begun legal action against three leading international cigarette companies, demanding more than $40 billion dollars in compensation over their alleged role in promoting underage smoking. The companies in question are British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris and International Tobacco Ltd.
It’s unfortunate that harmful products, which have been outlawed in the west simply migrate and flourish in the developing world. It reminds me of the Opium wars, where western Opium companies imposed the drug onto the Chinese people, when it was outlawed at home. This is one of the dangerous double standards and by-products of Globalization, at the expense of the lives of African people. It is imperative that other African countries protect their health by following Nigeria’s example.