Mmegi Online :: Advocacy group calls for fast-track of tobacco controls
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Last Updated
Monday 25 July 2016, 18:00 pm.
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Advocacy group calls for fast-track of tobacco controls

Tobacco control advocates have called on government to fast track the legislative process arguing that it has dragged on for too long.
By Baboki Kayawe Fri 15 May 2015, 17:14 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Advocacy group calls for fast-track of tobacco controls








Moreover, they want the bill presented during the winter Parliament.

Mmegi learnt this week that the proposed bill, expected to domesticate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that Botswana is signatory to, is still at drafting stage.

The FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), representing a paradigm shift in developing a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances.

The approach is premised on the importance of demand reduction strategies as well as supply issues.

After a recent tobacco control advocacy training held in Mahalapye, the interim executive director of the Anti-Tobacco Network (ATN), Dr Bontle Mbongwe has voiced out her frustration at the snail’s pace on the domestication of FCTC.

Mbongwe said whilst she took pride at the commitment government has shown on advancing public health, and in particular tobacco control, it was equally frustrating that the convention was not yet domesticated by adopting a strong FCTC compliant legislation.

This was despite that Botswana was among the first to sign and ratify the connection in 2003 and 2005 respectively.

“My wish is that this law is discussed in Parliament this July and it takes effect by the end of the year,” she said.

Mbongwe added that whilst there was no such thing as a perfect law because situations change everyday, she would like to see that it meets the minimum requirements of the FCTC.  These requirements would include a total ban on all forms of tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship, a total ban on smoking in all indoor and outdoor public places, reducing access of tobacco products to children by way of increasing their prices and banning of the sale of single cigarettes and small packs of cigarettes less than 20.

Though she said tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship were problematic areas in the country; Mbongwe said government needed to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

Article 5.3 of the FCTC obliges Parties to limit interactions with the tobacco industry to only those necessary to effectively regulate the tobacco industry

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and tobacco products.

“When interactions with the tobacco industry are necessary, such interactions should be conducted transparently through public hearings, notices of interactions, and disclosure of records,” she said.

Moreover, she said it was crucial for government ministries, politicians, the private sector and members of the public to understand that the tobacco industry had no business in promoting public health nor is it interested in promoting longevity.

“Its sole business is to promote and sell a product that has been proven scientifically to be addictive, to cause disease and death and to give rise to a variety of social ills, including poverty.  It should be a collective responsibility of all Batswana to prioritise public health and not to befriend the tobacco industry,” she said.

“ATN is extremely worried by the current partnership between Japan Tobacco Inc and the Ministry of Agriculture.  Our biggest worry is that the Ministry of Agriculture is going to become the first and foremost defender for Japan Tobacco as soon as government tries to strengthen any provisions on the tobacco industry in the upcoming law,” she said.

Director of Africa for Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, Joshua Kyallo encouraged advocacy groups to lobby for the passage of comprehensive legislation as an epidemic was looming in the continent.

He said that the international and regional evidence on the effectiveness of tobacco control policies was overwhelming.

However, African countries have been slow to develop tobacco control strategies under the weight of infectious diseases. Kyallo said that a public health crisis was eminent as the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) was likely. 

“The tobacco epidemic is a multisectoral problem and the solutions are multisectoral,” he said. Though Africa has arguably the lowest adult tobacco use in the world, with 17 percent of males smoking and four percent of females, according to Kyallo, the trend is changing among the youth aged between 13 and 15, with 20 percent of boys smoking compared to 13 percent of girls.

“Africa has an unprecedented window of opportunity to prevent, halt or reverse the tobacco epidemic,” he said.

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