With tobacco sales declining in most of the Western world, cigarette companies are looking to capitalize on growing markets. According to the Los Angeles Times, many have turned to Africa to help them turn a profit, where children are quickly getting hooked on the dangerous practice.

Reporting from South Africa, Robyn Dixon of the L.A. Times writes:

A schoolboy in uniform hurries up, barely glancing at the cookie packets, lollipops and candies, grabs a Dunhill cigarette from a red box, puts a match to it and drops 22 cents on the table before hurrying away.

Moyana is at his stand, just a few yards from the school gates, most days from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Asked why he set up next to the school, he looks awkward. “I just decided this was a good spot,” he says vaguely, basking in the hot spring sun. Every few minutes, a customer tosses some change onto his table, plucks a cigarette, lights it.

Africa is Big Tobacco’s last frontier, and companies are conquering the continent stick by stick. Even a child can afford the cost of a single cigarette, 16 cents for Moyana’s cheapest brand.

As tobacco sales decline in the West due to ardent anti-smoking campaigns and flatten in Asia, cigarette companies are training their eyes on the continent of Africa because of its growing middle class and relaxed regulation on selling single cigarettes, which makes smoking both cheap and accessible.

While few people in Africa currently smoking, a growing segment of African men in several countries are taking up the unhealthy practice. The World Health Organization estimates that somewhere between 20 to 30-percent of African men in several countries smoke, and according to a 2011 study by the University of Michigan, the number of smokers in Africa “will rise from an average 16% to 22% by 2030, a massive increase given U.N. predictions that sub-Saharan Africa’s population will rise by half a billion, to 1.3 billion, by then.”

Adam Belcher, an economist with the American Society, explains the tobacco industry’s newfound interest in the continent:

“Twenty years ago, the industry wasn’t interested in Africa because they were still seeing considerable growth in other markets. As they’ve been pushed out of America, Australia, Europe, they’re moving on to the next lowest-hanging fruit,” Blecher says. “With the resources that they have and the experience they have, they will be successful if nothing’s done.”

Anti-smoking activists in Africa are pushing back against the encroachment of tobacco companies, and many governments have restricted advertisements from cigarette companies. Despite this, tobacco companies are making inroads into many nations, and without intervention, Africa’s next problem could be lung cancer.

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  • Very disturbing corporations, move like predators, chasing after the weakest or in this case least regulated. The goverments over there would be wise to nip this in the bud.

  • Maybe we need some videos of 2-year old South Africans blowing smoke rings like professionals. Bonus points if they’re chubby.

    I have never understood the appeal of smoking. I have smoked a few cigarettes in my life, and while you do get something of a high,immediately afterwards I always felt sick and/or depressed.

    • Chillyroad

      Strangely enough my best cigarette was after a night out in London. I woke up in my friends flat, had a cigarrette and I have never been able to forget it. I have just recently quit my social smoking but nothing beats a cigarette when youre drunk.

      In regards to the article, I dont think we need to be paternalistic towards Africans. No selling to or promoting smoking to children but adults should have a choice as to whether they want this to be their poison.

  • Kay

    It’s not enough that multi-national corporations have basically raped the land, embroiled whole parts of the continent in conflicts using para-military forces to gain access to resources, and have brought with them the imperialistic attitude that Blackness is somehow wrong (which is why bleaching the skin is at an all time high) but now they want to give them cancer sticks too? Ugh. Just….ugh. *smdh*

  • leroylobster

    Most Black Americans never invest in Africa. One cannot sit around and complain about the raping of resources yet one does not invest. It’s sad when one goes on a plane headed to for example South Africa, one does not see and Black Americans. But the plane is full of Asians and whites.

  • Barbara2


    I know and know of many Black Amerians who are investing in and looking for opportunities in Africa. Oprah (South Africa) is not the only one.

    I saw a news report several years ago where China has the same problem with the “cancer sticks.” I do hope the African countries fight hard to keep tobacco out, whether it’s sold to children or adults.