MAURITANIA —The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released major findings from its STEPwise approach to surveillance (STEPS) 2008 survey, which show that 22.6% of Mauritania’s teenagers aged 13 to 15 use tobacco.

This disturbing statistic is related to the widespread availability of tobacco products, including those for youngsters.

However, with the WHO Mauritania, legislation attempts to implement graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging are changing the scenario.

The 2021 Global Adult Tobacco Survey shows a positive trend, with tobacco use in Mauritania declining by 8% from 18% in 2012 to 10% in 2021.

In 2018, Mauritania enacted new legislation in line with WHO recommendations. This regulation mandates all tobacco products sold in the country to include a health warning that covers at least 70% of the surface space on both sides of the packaging.

The purpose of this act is to enhance public awareness about the dangers of tobacco usage, particularly among youth.

Tobacco use is the primary cause of death and noncommunicable diseases in Mauritania, including cancer, heart disease, and chronic pulmonary disease.

During a World No Tobacco Day event, Dr. Abdallah Bouhabib, Deputy Director General of Public Health at the Mauritania Ministry of Health, emphasised the need for health warnings on tobacco packaging.

He emphasised that these warnings, particularly those that combine text and visuals, are among the most cost-effective and efficient ways to raise public awareness about the substantial health dangers connected with smoking.

According to the survey, over 25% of smokers in Mauritania first observed health warnings on cigarette packaging, and 14% contemplated quitting as a result of these labels.

In her remarks, Dr. Charlotte Faty Ndiaye, WHO Representative in Mauritania, highlighted tobacco smoking as an epidemic that requires an effective response.

She applauded the new law for helping to reduce smoking rates in Mauritania, but emphasised the importance of continued efforts.

Dr. Ndiaye emphasised the importance of a comprehensive social and health strategy to changing attitudes and dispelling myths about tobacco use, particularly among youth and adolescents.

Dr. Ndiaye also mentioned gender inequities and high occupational exposure rates, emphasising the urgent need for effective health programmes.

However, the war against tobacco is not over. According to the global tobacco use survey, over 34% of Mauritanians are still exposed to tobacco smoke at work, and men consume tobacco nearly eight times more than women.

With WHO assistance, Mauritania’s Health Ministry trained 15 regional governors on tobacco control.

Focal individuals have been trained and deployed to government and regional departments to promote awareness and mobilise community leaders, including religious leaders, to support tobacco control efforts.

In addition to legal actions, Mauritania is launching other anti-smoking activities. These include information campaigns about the dangers of tobacco consumption, a prohibition on smoking in public areas, and the imposition of tobacco levies, part of which funds efforts to combat tobacco-related diseases.

These combined efforts are essential in reducing tobacco use and protecting public health in Mauritania.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook