Batswana have been warned against allowing themselves to be used by tobacco industry as advertising agents. The warming was sounded by Anti- Tobacco Network (ATN) Coordinator North, Tebogo Maule.
Addressing an anti-tobacco campaign in Francistown, Maule warned parents against buying products bearing tobacco brand names as this promotes tobacco usage especially among the youth.
“I urge parents and guardians to be vigilant and ensure that they do not accept or buy any product bearing any tobacco brand name,” she said.
Maule further cautioned against tobacco usage adding that it is the leading preventable cause of death as per World Health Organization (WHO) reports. She said WHO estimates that almost 6 million people died in 2011 from tobacco use alone and that nearly 80% of these deaths occurred in low and middle income countries.
“WHO further estimates that every ten seconds, somewhere in the world, tobacco kills another victim. ┬áIf current smoking trends continue, this toll will increase up to one tobacco caused death every three seconds over the next 30 to 45 years,” she said.
She said that recent data from WHO has confirmed that the risks of smoking are substantially higher than it was previously estimated. She said with prolonged smoking, smokers have a death rate about three times higher than non-smokers at all ages. Maule pointed out that tobacco products cause numerous ailments.
“Because the negative health consequences of tobacco are not as immediate as with other hazardous substances, this poses a challenge in prioritizing tobacco control. The risks of tobacco are vastly underestimated by the public, and even by those who are responsible for protecting and promoting public health,” Maule said.
She said that widespread underestimation of risks associated with tobacco use is the major reason why lenient tobacco policies have been allowed to occur. She called on government to regulate and control tobacco products.
“Because of immediate consequences of alcohol, government has taken urgent and stringent actions on alcohol such as raising the price of alcohol products, creating an alcohol levy fund to use it to address the problems that arise from alcohol products.
These vital interventions are not as evident in tobacco control and to date tobacco products are available at every corner of the streets and to crown it all, employers continue to buy tobacco products for their employees in rural farms,” she said.
Maule said that tobacco use is one of the major public health challenges facing the world today adding that public awareness is a crucial step in addressing the problem. Her view is that the public has to be informed on tobacco products.
She said that researchers have rated nicotine as even more addictive than heroin, cocaine, marijuana or alcohol.
“The sad reality is when we talk about substance abuse, often we forget about tobacco. It is time to pay attention to this gap,” she said.
She further said that the health consequences of tobacco use are much difficult to estimate in developing countries including Botswana owing to lack of data. She said that although it is estimated that tobacco causes about one million deaths in a year in developing countries, there is substantial uncertainty about the figure.
The anti-tobacco campaign was held under the theme “I don’t want to be a walking billboard for the tobacco industry”. The campaign was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.