Consumers of tobacco and its products must brace for plain packaging as Botswana joins the worldwide campaign to adhere to the initiative. Observed on May 31, this year’s World No Tobacco, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called on governments across the world to enact policies for plain packaging of tobacco products.
Health minister Dorcas Makgato took to Gantsi yesterday to launch plain packaging, which is a WHO initiative aimed at reducing the attractiveness of tobacco packaging.
“The new packaging will see all the attractive features of the old packaging removed. Tobacco will no longer be sold in attractive packs.
Now the packs would be plain with large graphic images in both fronts and back of the packets, and the graphic details would depict effects of smoking,” a communiqué from Ministry of Health stated.
The message said the WHO has noted that tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death killing nearly six million people each year, of whom 600,000 are non-smokers, who die from breathing second-hand smoke.
Anti-tobacco movements used the occasion to warn policy makers and the public on fundamental and irreconcilable difference between the interests of the tobacco industry and public health.
The executive director of Anti-Tobacco Network (ATN) Bontle Mbongwe cautioned government officials and the public that the industry interest is to make money at the expense of public health.
“Honourable Minister, the tobacco industry is a bully and just like you will never invite an abuser to defend the abused the same principle will apply
The non-governmental organisation expressed “happiness on the commitment you just made to support plain packaging and the commitment to incorporate it into our laws”.
Mbongwe further called this a landmark theme, which “is a crushing defeat for the tobacco industry and fully justifies WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Parties’ determination to go ahead with the introduction of standardised packaging”.
She said this move is the beginning of the end for packaging that masks a deadly and addictive product.
Adding that it has taken many years to get to this point, and it reflects a huge effort aimed at protecting children and other vulnerable groups from tobacco marketing.
“We call upon the government not to be intimidated and follow the example of Australia, which introduced plain packs in 2012 and has since seen declines in smoking.
Once again we hope this year will see Botswana adopting the long awaited FCTC compliant legislation that will incorporate plain packaging,” she said.
She warned that the threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to progressing public health policies, and that the aim should always be nothing less than a Tobacco free Botswana.