Bontle Mbongwe of the Faculty of Health Sciences said yesterday that government should hike tobacco prices and tax to curb consumption. She said the move is in line with the requirements of Article Six of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The article recognises that price and tax measures are an effective and important means of reducing tobacco consumption by various segments of the population, in particular young persons.
Mbongwe said it is time government gave tobacco control priority given the harm tobacco visits on peoples' health, the economy, the environment and the overall productivity of the nation. The anti-tobacco activist said the special levy could help rebuild lives destroyed by tobacco use. She was briefing the media yesterday on the just ended fourth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP4) held in Uruguay almost a week back. She said a punitive levy would be useful to help Botswana to effectively implement other obligations of the Convention such as Articles 12 and 14 of the FCTC. Article 12 focuses on education, communication, training and public awareness, while Article 14 advocates for demand reduction measures based tobacco dependence. Article 14 requires parties to implement effective programmes to promote the cessation of tobacco use as well as establish health care facilities and rehabilitation centres for diagnosis, counselling, preventing and treating tobacco dependence.
"The funds generated from the price and tax increase on tobacco products will be channelled towards the development of public health and as such aid patients suffering from non-communicable diseases resulting from tobacco use," Mbongwe said.
She decried lack of implementation of the advertising ban and promotion of tobacco products, as well as serious violations like the sale to and by minors of tobacco products. She said children as young as eight years are seen buying and selling tobacco products despite the ban on tobacco sales to and by persons below 18 years.
She said COP4 discussed lack of recognition of the impact of tobacco on poverty and the exclusion of Non-Communicable diseases on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). She said that while the MDGs form the basis for global development policy, and recognise the close relationship between poverty and disease, it is unfortunate that tobacco use and its impact on exacerbating poverty and poor health is left out.
The World Health Organisation has described tobacco and its products as the leading cause of death, illness and impoverishment especially in middle and low income countries.