The Botswana Anti-Tobacco Network (ATN) was launched yesterday on the eve of the World No Tobacco Day.
Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration and ATN founding patron, Mokgweetsi Masisi said that he was compelled to support the movement by the fact that tobacco and poverty are closely interlinked. He said it is a sad reality that tobacco use tends to be higher among the poor.
"In case of the poorest households, where a significant portion of the income is spent on food, expenditure on tobacco can mean the difference between an adequate diet and malnutrition," he said.
Masisi said the ATN seeks the full implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the enforcement of the Control of Smoking Act; which covers a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. He concurred with ATN's concerns over lack of enforcement of tobacco control legislation in the country.
He said there is a clear ethical and legal mandate for Botswana to stop advertising that associates tobacco use, particularly smoking with positive images of health, sports, success and romance. He hailed ATN for lobbying government to raise tobacco prices and tax. He stated that there is ample evidence that higher taxes are particularly effective in reducing smoking among vulnerable populations such as the youth, pregnant women and
"Tax money generated from tobacco products can be an appropriate source of revenue for innovative projects and activities," he said. ATN board secretary and interim chief, Bontle Mbongwe lamented that despite progress and commitment by the government, there are major setbacks in tobacco control efforts in Botswana. She said that statistics suggest that the Southern Africa market can absorb 60 billion cigarettes annually, higher than the regional production capacity of 50 billion.
"Another setback is with regard to the gaps in current legislation, especially concerning coverage of the provisions of the FCTC, some of which include deceptive labels on tobacco products such as light and mild, the sale of single cigarettes and illicit trade of tobacco products," Mbongwe said.
This year's, World No Tobacco Day celebrations highlights the FCTC, which took effect in 2005 after it was adopted by WHO's 1996 World Health Assembly. A total of 172 countries, Botswana included have adopted the treaty. This makes FCTC one of the most widely embraced evidence-based treaties in United Nations history. FCTC urges all countries to ratify the treaty, fully implement its provisions, and adopt its guidelines. It provides country-level assistance for implementing effective tobacco control measures.