Members of the tobacco control club of Government High School Nkolndongo in Yaoundé were installed on February 6, 2018 by the President of the Cameroonian Coalition for Tobacco Control (C3T). This was during an educational talk organized as part of activities to commemorate the 52nd National Youth Day in Cameroon. The ceremony, which was held in the staff hall of the institution, was attended by senior officials of the school. The club is made up of an 8-member executive board whose main mission is to carry out activities to raise students’ awareness of the harmful effects of smoking, and to support the implementation of the measures to protect the school from the harmful effects of smoking.
The move to create a tobacco control club in the Nkolndongo High School, the first in Cameroon, comes at a time when the government through the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Secondary Education, has launched a crusade against smoking and other social scourges around schools. It is motivated by a rise in the prevalence of smoking especially by the youth in Cameroon.
Tobacco use among adolescents is a public health problem in Cameroon as well as in Africa where there is strong evidence that the tobacco industry deliberately and systematically targets children to encourage them to smoke and use other tobacco products. The industry does this through the frequent use of multiple strategies, such as marketing, advertising and promotion around schools, leading to experimentation among students. They are therefore likely to become addicted to tobacco and later suffer health problems and/or early death related to smoking.
Cameroon is no exception to the marketing strategy of the tobacco industry. Advertising and the sale of tobacco products increasingly target children and young people. Studies show that among students aged 13 to 15, 31.2% have tried smoking before the age of 10, 5.7% smoke cigarettes and 9.5% use other tobacco products. Studies conducted in 2014 by the Ministry of Public Health on smoking in amongst youths found that 300,000 young people in the above-mentioned age group regularly consume these dangerous and deadly products.
Also, the TIA study conducted by C3T in 2016 in 20 schools in the city of Yaoundé showsthat the tobacco industryintensively carries out its marketing activities around schools. The study revealed 173 tobacco sales points within a radius of 100 meters around the 20 establishments surveyed, an average of 9 points per establishment. 85% of the surveyed schools had close and visible points of sale from school gates. The survey also indicated that single cigarette sticks and packages of less than 20 are sold in kiosks and mobile outlets. All the schools surveyed had grocery stores selling single cigarettes. Cigarettes are sold in packs of less than 20 and several flavored tobacco products are sold close to school establishments. These aromas are a real bait for young people who fall into the trap being initiated to smoking.
This situation calls for adequate actions to protect the school environment and young people against tobacco and its dangers. It is for this reason that C3T has focused on awareness. On the occasion of the 52nd National Youth Day, the coalition initiated the campaign to prevent smoking within the youth. Other than the Nkolndongo High School in Yaoundé, the Mongo Joseph High School in Douala was also involved in this campaign. As of February 7, 2018, nearly 2,000 students from the institution have been educated on smoking and the harmful effects of tobacco. Classroom visits and entertainment manifestations and quizzes by the mobile telephony company Nexttel, helped convey the message to a larger audience.