Dr. Hadii Mamudu, associate professor in the department of health services management and policy, East Tennessee State University College of Public Health has published an estimated report on the prevalence of secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure among nonsmoking adolescents in nine West African countries. Dr. Mamudu, along with several colleagues including alumni Dr. Sreenivas Veeranki and Mr. David Kioko, published a paper titled “Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Nonsmoking Adolescents in West Africa” in the American Journal of Public Health.
The researchers conducted a pooled analysis with nationally representative 2006 to 2009 Global Youth Tobacco Survey data. “It has been established that secondhand tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, over 70 of which are carcinogens, and that there is no known safe level of exposure,“ said Dr. Mamudu. “Annually, secondhand smoke kills over 600,000 nonsmokers worldwide, about one-third of whom are children. However, the scientific evidence and prevalence analysis to spur policy actions and advocacy activities is lacking in many countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries,” he added. The research team therefore conducted a study into secondhand smoke exposure among school-going adolescents in nine of the 16 West African countries, with findings stating that while the prevalence of exposure inside the home ranged from 13-45 percent, that of exposure outside the home ranged from 25 -80 percent.
According to Dr. Mamudu, these are major findings because Sub-Saharan African countries are generally noted for lower levels of tobacco use, compared to the rest of the world; yet their vulnerable adolescents, as the findings suggest, are exposed to such high levels of secondhand smoke. The researchers found that the knowledge of smoking harm, support for smoking bans, exposure to antismoking media messages, and receptivity of school tobacco education were positively and significantly associated with higher SHS exposure in most countries. “These findings are likely due to the absence of comprehensive smokefree policies and the inability of youth in these countries to avoid secondhand smoke exposure, which demand further research”, Dr. Mamudu said.
Based on the research, the authors suggest that West African policymakers should adopt policies consistent with Article eight of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and its guidelines and public health education to promote smoke-free households. Dr. Mamudu elaborated, “It is our hope that this study will spur policy actions and garner advocacy activities to protect such vulnerable people in society as obliged by international treaties and conventions such as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and Convention on the Rights of the Child.”