FRANCISTOWN: Warnings against the health hazards of tobacco has not deterred smokers from partaking of their favourite cigarettes.
Most cigarette packs have bold warnings written on them such as: "DANGER: SMOKING CAUSES LUNG DISEASE" or "SMOKING IS A HEALTH HAZARD". Some warnings even go into detail, revealing that tobacco smoke contains many harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, cyanide, nicotine and tar, which can cause diseases and deaths, and that non-smokers and ex-smokers on average, live longer and healthier than smokers.
In spite of all these, people continue to puff away at cigarettes. In fact, it has been revealed that the number of cigarette smokers all over the world has not dropped considerably in recent years.
Nyaladzi Machola (29) of Selepa who regards himself as a regular smoker said a cigarette after a meal is one of life's simple pleasures. He revealed that he usually smokes in the morning when he wakes up, during a work break and when he has stress.
Asked whether he is aware of the dangers of smoking, Machola said he could not care less, because, as he puts it, "everyone is going to die."
While he claims to be unfazed by the fact that half of the smokers will die younger because of this habit, Machola admits knowing that tobacco contains nicotine. He, however, said he does not know what it is and what it can do to a smoker.
Thomas Molebatsi, aged 35, of Chadibe village said he has been smoking since he was 18-years old. "I was introduced to smoking by my peers and thought then that it was cool to puff on cigarettes. Even girls loved us," he laughed.
He said ever since he got hooked to smoking he has developed some emotional attachment to cigarettes. He also noted that he finds the cigarettes calming and comforting during these stressful times.
"Most of the time I find myself reaching for a cigarette and lighting it up automatically without thinking about it. I even feel that giving up smoking would seem like giving up a trusted friend," said Molebatsi with a wry smile.
Chikadzi Bante, a vendor who sells cigarettes said although she sells them she is well aware of the dangers of smoking. She indicated that she was driven by poverty to indulge in the sale of cigarettes. "I can't stand the smell of tobacco despite the fact that I sell cigarettes. If it wasn't for poverty I wouldn't be selling it," she said regrettably.
Principal Health Officer in the Ministry of Health Gaesi Mophuting revealed that the increase in tobacco smoking has been fuelled by what she referred to as "deceptive advertisement" of tobacco products.
She suggested that new tobacco regulations regarding health warning labels, use of misleading descriptors (like "light," "mild," "rich choice tobaccos," "more flavour" and "more satisfaction"), and sales restrictions will help make tobacco products less accessible to youth and encourage smokers to quit.
Vigorous marketing by the massive tobacco industry has also been blamed for government efforts to control smoking through the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
Smoking is said to be one of the major causes of death in the modern world. This is attributed to the growing consumers of tobacco. It is because of this fact that the government of Botswana now considers cigarette smoking a public health priority.
Lately, Environmental Health Lecturer at the University of Botswana, Bontle Mbongwe indicated that although Botswana is not a tobacco grower, there are several types of tobacco products imported into Botswana.
She said compared to the 2001 Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) current tobacco use prevalence has increased by 4.4 percent among girls in 2008 GYTS. She added that there is an overall 14.3 percent smoking prevalence among 13-15 year old upper primary (Standard Seven) and lower secondary (Forms 1 and 2). About 21 percent of all adults who are 15 years and over are smoking in Botswana, she said. Cigars, noted Mbongwe, are becoming fashionable in the country, adding that previously the use of cigars was observed only among up-market consumers.Tobacco is said to be responsible for the death of one in 10 adults all over the world, which translates to around five million deaths every year. In spite of these risks, one wonders why it is so hard to quit smoking.
Often, answers given by experts to this question is that most smokers become addicted to the nicotine contained in tobacco products. Nicotine is said to have a deadly addictive power. Smokers find it difficult to quit because once they are hooked, smoking becomes a big part of their lives.
Experts say nicotine addiction can be overcome and that it is never too late to quit smoking. They say quitting smoking all begins with one's intention to stop. They must have the willpower to overcome the craving for smoking.
Smokers are also advised that to quit smoking may take more than one attempt. They must also try several methods before they can finally succeed. Smoking is said to be a stubborn habit because it is closely tied to the acts in the course of people's everyday lives. People trying to quit are also advised to stay away from people who smoke.
Even so, with determination, will power, and a strategy, to quit smoking is not out of the question.