State of Smoking in Malawi
It is estimated that 18 percent of adult males in Malawi smoke tobacco, compared to just 1.2 percent of females. However, since there is no national agency focused on tobacco control, exact figures are difficult to determine.
Party to the world health organization framework convention on tobacco control (who FCTC):
Since the who FCTC:
- Smoking reduction: Tobacco smoking rates among men and women have declined from 25.5 percent and 6.1 percent in 2003 to 18 percent and 1.2 percent respectively in 2010, according to the latest available data.
- Bans: There are no restrictions on smoking in public places, advertising, or promotion. There is no minimum age to purchase tobacco.
- Health warnings: There is no law that requires tobacco packaging to display a warning or the associated risks.
- Tobacco tax rates: There are no laws requiring a minimum tobacco excise tax rate.
Malawi is not a signatory to the FCTC, so there is little regulation of tobacco products. Malawi’s Tobacco Act regulates tobacco growing and exportation, but does not contain any restrictions on advertising, smoking in public places, or health warning label requirements. Smoking is allowed in public places, and tobacco advertising, including tobacco sponsorship of sports teams, is allowed. Since many smokers grow and then roll their own tobacco into cigarettes, a tobacco tax has not been an effective way to deter smoking.
Tobacco farming accounts for 81 percent of Malawi’s foreign exchange earnings. So, efforts to end smoking are treated with caution and often tinged with concern about negative economic consequences for the country. Furthermore, there is a lack of public education about smoking and many smokers, especially in rural areas, don’t fully understand smoking’s potential to cause negative health effects.
Views of Alternatives to Smoking:
Malawians have little exposure to or knowledge of alternatives to combustible cigarettes.
By the Numbers:
“Patients with chronic diseases, I talk with many about the consequences of smoking, and they say, ‘Oh, this cannot be so.’”
– Lawrence Kasenda, medical professional