FRANCISTOWN: Government intends passing legislation targeted at reducing or eliminating the practice of tobacco smoking.
The Bill, which will be discussed at the July sitting of Parliament, came about after government discovered that tobacco use in the country was increasing despite concerted efforts to curb the practice.
In the past, government introduced a 30% Tobacco Levy in order to cut down on smoking and reduce health complications and deaths resulting from tobacco smoking.
The illicit trade of tobacco products from neighbouring countries fuels the increasing practice of tobacco smoking in the country.
Some of the illegal tobacco products especially from Zimbabwe are very cheap making even students at primary and secondary schools to afford to buy them.
Amongst other challenges in the implementation of the tobacco use controls, were easy availability and accessibility of tobacco products to the general population, more especially to vulnerable groups such as the youth and school going children.
Limited funding for extensive social mobilisation strategies on tobacco control also hamstrung the legislation. Past studies by the health ministry in collaboration with other stakeholders in Botswana found that tobacco smoking is on the increase, a situation that Ephraim Rapalai, acting national coordinator for tobacco control at the ministry, said it’s worrying because it brings unnecessary deaths.
Although Rapalai would not reveal the current statistics showing the trend of tobacco smoking and its associated repercussions in Botswana during a press briefing in Francistown on Thursday because of protocol issues, he nonetheless admitted that the prevalence of tobacco use in the country was on an upward trajectory.
Rapalai stated that the reason why he did not reveal the findings of the Health ministry’s latest report was that the ministry and its stakeholders entered into an agreement that the Minister would only reveal those findings during the World No Tobacco Day, which will be held in Francistown on May 30. As part of the preparations to sensitise the public about the dangers of smoking, the ministry will hold a number of activities such as football games and public education in and around Francistown. The activities would involve secondary school students who are mostly vulnerable to smoking because they have little or no knowledge about the dangers associated with tobacco smoking.
The public relations officer of Nyangabgwe Referral Hospital (NRH) Keekae Majeremane stated that the activities would not end after the World No Tobacco Day commemoration. He said they would continue thereafter because it has been discovered that non-communicable diseases kill more people in the world more than HIV/Aids, heart attack and Malaria combined.According to the 2012 findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Report: Mortality Attributable to Tobacco, the economic costs of tobacco use are substantial. They include significant health care costs for treating the diseases caused by tobacco use and the lost productivity that results from tobacco attributable morbidity and mortality.
The report also states that within communicable diseases, tobacco use is responsible for 10% of all deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 22% of all cancer deaths and 36% of all deaths and diseases of the respiratory diseases. “About 71% of all lung cancer deaths, 42% of all chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases are attributable to tobacco use,” according to the report.
The report adds that within communicable diseases, tobacco use is responsible for an estimated seven percent of all deaths due to tubercolosis and 12% due to lower respiratory infections.