Tax alcohol, tobacco, to tackle cancer: African Union first ladies

On the sidelines of the summit at Niamey, the first ladies of Africa launched a call for a better fight against cancer, asking for an increase in taxes on "carcinogenic products" such as tobacco and alcohol. [AFP]

First ladies attending the African Union summit in Niger on Saturday called for a rise in taxes for cancer-causing products such as tobacco and alcohol.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit at Niamey, Sika Bella Kabore, the first lady of Burkina Faso, read out a joint appeal for more effective measures to tackle cancer.

As well as calling for cancer to be included in strategic planning, they called for higher taxes on tobacco, alcohol and other carcinogenic products.

Both drink and cigarettes are cheaper in most African countries than in western countries, where a tax on such products tends to be incorporated into health policies.

Cancer specialist Alain Toledano of the Rafael Institute in Paris welcomed the initiative.

"Africa is rightly concerned most of all with contagious diseases," said Toledano, who is also president of the Franco-African Cancerology Association.

But he added the major issue they had forgotten was cancer.

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"Nineteen million people will die in a year from cancer, 70 percent of them in the poorest countries," he said. "So there will be millions of deaths in Africa.

"If we want to succeed in our objective of raising life expectancy from 60 to 75 by 2063, we have to fight cancer," he added

It is important to invest not just in treatment but in testing to catch the disease early, he said -- adding that investment in this area would pay off.

"Healthier populations are people who work more, who consume more and who cost less," he argued.

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