The Interim Executive Director of the Anti Tobacco Network (ATN), Bontle Mbongwe, says the tobacco industry in Botswana continues to deliberately and aggressively violate the provisions of the Control of Smoking Act, such as the tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship ban. Mbongwe observed that the youth and children have become walking billboards through designer jackets labeled “Marlboro”. She further stated Marlboro, the most sold cigarette brand in the world, is known as one of Philip Morris key strengths. According to Mbongwe, the Marlboro jackets, which promote the Marlboro cigarettes, are sold in some retail stores in Botswana and have turned Batswana into walking billboards and a cheap mode of advertising for the tobacco industry at the cost of the buyer. Mbongwe says that these acts are indirect ways of advertising and promoting prohibited by law in Botswana, adding that the tobacco industry is capitalizing on the lack of knowledge by members of the public on what constitutes tobacco advertising and promotion. She further said that the provision of tailor-made tobacco display cabinets by the tobacco industry to supermarkets and other retail outlets is another deliberate act by the tobacco industry to undermine government efforts. She said that ATN views such acts as constituting sponsorship as well as tobacco promotion.
“The theme by the World Health Organization is relevant for Botswana and could have not come at a better time,” said Mbongwe.
She further stated that the campaign for tobacco tree initiative and the tobacco interference campaign are intended to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
She said that tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death, and added that the global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke. She said unless counties act, it will kill up to 8 million people by 2030, of which more than 80 percent will live in low and middle-income countries.
“ATN has carried out assessments in selected towns, villages and cities in Botswana. The assessments revealed that the tobacco industry is active in supermarkets, liquor stores, bars and restaurants to intensify tobacco promotion,” she said. Mbongwe urged Batswana to be vigilant against the tobacco industry and “let everyday be a World No Tobacco Day”.┬á She further said ATN further supports the WHO plea that “On World No Tobacco Day 2012, and throughout the following year, countries should┬á put the fight against tobacco industry interference at the heart of their efforts to control the global tobacco epidemic”.