Boston, Massachusetts- On Tuesday May 31, 2016, Torwon D. Krua, the director of an African refugee and immigrant advocacy group in Massachusetts, launched a program called Tobacco Free Africa.
This program, according to a dispatch from Boston, aims to combat tobacco use both in Africa and in the Americas.
“Tobacco Free Africa has partnered with the 84 Movement to facilitate a public health campaign aiming to transform all Boston bus stops into smoke-free facilities with the hope that refugees in the U. S. will live healthier, tobacco-free lives,” the dispatch said.
Tobacco Free Africa aims to pressure regulators in Massachusetts to designate all of Boston’s bus stop shelters as smoke free facilities in 100 days.
“Cigarettes kill and are addictive, and second hand smoke can be as deadly as smoking,” said Krua, who added that, “Our goal is to help preserve a basic human right: the right to life for non-smokers and smokers alike.”
Although Boston has laws banning smoking in public places, none of the city’s bus stops are designated smoke-free facilities. Every day, several persons are forced to inhale second-hand smoke while waiting for the bus; exposing them to the potentially life-threatening consequences of cigarette smoke.
Reverend Nenkerwon Troh, a clinical staff and Substance Abuse Counselor at High Point Treatment Center in Brockton, spoke at the launch.
He emphasized the dangers of tobacco use and second hand smoke, noting, “Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, imposing a terrible toll in health, lives and dollars on families, businesses and government.”
“Tobacco kills more than 480,000 people annually- more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. While the U.S. has made major progress against tobacco use, nearly one in five Americans still smokes, and more than 2,500 kids try their first cigarette each day,” He said.
Given how aggressively cigarette companies market their product, it comes as no surprise that smoking is still entrenched in our society.
According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent nearly US$9.5 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the U.S. alone- that is US$30 million dollars a day. Additionally, smoking-related illness in the United States has increased to cost more than US$300 billion each year.
The amount includes nearly US$170 billion for direct medical care for adults. Moreover, a 2014 report by the Surgeon General found that cigarette breaks and other acts account for US$156 billion in lost productivity for smokers and US$5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure. The tobacco industry is a cancer in America, however it does even more harm in African countries.
Many African countries do not have regulations on tobacco, and their citizens pay the price.
Although there is a ban on public smoking in Liberia, 182,000 people use tobacco every day, while in Sierra Leone, more than 654,000 adults and 21,000 children are regular smokers, the report added.
“The United States needs to act as an example for the rest of the world and kick out smoking habit for good. So, while eliminating smoking in Boston bus stops may sound like a small step, it could have a powerful ripple effect that would help countless people around the world live smoke-free lives,” the dispatch noted.