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Halt rising numbers of female tobacco users in poor nations, urges WHO

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c2956 (Published 04 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2956

The World Health Organization should design serious strategies to oblige poor nations to comply and curb rising numbers of female tobacco users.

I write to commend the decision taken by WHO as in your article to
Halt rising numbers of female tobacco users in poor nations, urges WHO, by
John Zarocostas. BMJ 2010;340:c2956.

As a person who has lived and worked in a tobacco growing area of my
country, Uganda, I have vividly seen many of the dangers of tobacco, from
growing it, to using it by chewing and smoking it in even the unprocessed
forms. I have seen women, girls, boys and men waste their livelihoods in
what I could term the ‘tobacco mess’. It saddened me because as a health
worker (Nurse) working in that region at that time, I knew what they were
headed for – disaster. Most heart breaking was that the government was
busy praising the tobacco industry for the ‘great revenue’. Many
governments, through their ministries of health, are in the know of all
these issues and have tried to regulate them by putting policies in place
to curb the situation. But because they pick the revenue with one hand it
becomes difficult to sanction ‘meaningful’ policies with the other hand.
The end result usually is unenforced policies, and many poor nations have
a lot of these. This is worsened by the aggressive marketing policies of
the tobacco industry.

It’s a commendable decision that the World Health Organization has
called for concerted global action to curb the rising numbers of female
tobacco users, especially in poor nations. My concern is that this good
move may eventually be watered down by the fact that these poor nations
are blinded by the revenue from the tobacco industry and may not dare
develop meaningful policies to curb the rising numbers of female tobacco
users. The tobacco industry may also be threatened because this call may
result in an overall reduction of their clientele, both female and male.
The tobacco industry may therefore design more complex ways to keep the
female tobacco users and even recruit more, both female and male.

I therefore encourage and call upon the World Health Organization to
design serious strategies to governments of these poor nations to comply
and curb rising numbers of female tobacco users.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

08 June 2010
Joseph Mwizerwa
Lecturer (Nursing)
Mbarara University of Science and Technology, P.O.BOX 1410, Uganda