The Africa Tobacco Industry Interference Index (ATII) in its 2023 survey ranked Ethiopia among countries with the lowest rates of tobacco industry interference in government affairs.
According to this index conducted by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) that took into consideration 18 African countries; Ethiopia, next to Botswana, was reported to be the best performing country with the lowest rates of tobacco industry interference in government matters, with Cameroon recording the worst performer. Ethiopia’s score, according to the report, has showed a noticeable improvement dropping from 49 in 2021 down to 37 in 2023. Countries like Kenya, on the other hand, saw a significant degree of deterioration.
The index assesses how governments are responding to tobacco industry interference and protecting public health policies from tobacco industry’s commercial and vested interests as required under Article 5(3) of the World Health Organization Framework convention on Tobacco Control.
The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA), which launched its 2023 survey last week in a virtual event amidst increasing concerns of tobacco control advocates, claimed that vested interest of the tobacco industry interference in government policy making and business strategies have diminished following efforts related to government’s strict demarcation of interactions with the tobacco industry.
Lead author of the report Arti Singh (PhD) said, tobacco industry participation in policy development, tobacco industry Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, benefits accorded the tobacco industry, unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry, transparency when dealing with the tobacco industry, conflicts of interest and preventive measures taken by governments to protect their public health policies from tobacco industry interference are used to measure the degree of tobacco industry interference particularly.
In line with unnecessary interactions with the tobacco industry; Ethiopia, Botswana, Gabon and Mauritius recorded no such interactions in 2023. Conversely Madagascar followed by South Africa and Tanzania recorded the highest scores for unnecessary interventions. Such interventions by tobacco industries, usually aims at altering government policy making and implementation process, in favor of the tobacco industry.
Regarding conflict of interest to protect public health policy, on the other hand, Ethiopia and Uganda showed no record of conflict of interest of any senior government official joining the tobacco industry or vice versa during the reporting period.
Despite encouraging progresses, the majority of the countries still fall short when it comes to fully implementing Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and policies and laws which nations developed to control tobacco industry interference, Singh (Dr.) highlighted.
Thus, the report has recommended for African countries to de-normalize and ban ‘socially responsible’ activities on tobacco industries. It also suggested to maintain a strong stance against tobacco industry interference, Fast-track the passing of pending tobacco control laws, capacity building for public and political officials, commit to evidence generation and knowledge transfer, Promotion of economically viable alternative livelihood, adopting a code of conduct and empower civil society.
In Ethiopia, five percent of adults aged 15 or older use tobacco products. About 2.7 percent of adults consume factory-produced cigarettes while about 1.7 percent is smokeless tobacco users, according to the International Survey on Adult Tobacco Use.
The Tobacco Control Data Initiative also indicated that, although tobacco use in Ethiopia is relatively low compared to neighboring countries, smoking related diseases killed 259 men and 65 women per week and 16,800 per year.