April 4 2010: Tobacco control stakeholders, including the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health, company directors and non-governmental organizations have called on government to approve and enforce the draft legislation on tobacco.
The Project Coordinator of Africa Tobacco Control Regional Initiative, Bontle Mbongwe, on Wednesday appealed to government to implement the Smoking Control Act and to ensure its complete enforcement, in line with the framework convention on tobacco control which Botswana signed in 2003 and ratified in 2005.
Mbongwe said that Botswana is faced with a problem of smoking in public areas and illegal trafficking of tobacco control products. She added that foreign and local companies continue to negate government’s initiative of prohibiting tobacco advertising and smuggling. Some of the products that are smuggled into the country include cigarettes, tobacco, snuff and tobacco extracts.
Bontle said illegal tobacco traders have penetrated the Botswana market, and they use other avenues of advertising, like issuing free cigarettes at night clubs, using biased advertising on the packaging and even advertising on school bags.
“The aggressive tobacco advertisers have even managed to lure females through their biased advertising, which was not the case in the past” she said.
The Director of Public Health, Sheenaz El ÔÇôHalabi, added that tobacco use has increased from 8.3% in 2001 to 14.3% in 2008 among the age group 13 to 15 years.
“The rise can be attributed to the accessibility of tobacco products to minors, and gender specific deceptive messages in cigarette packages,” she said.
According to WHO, smoking causes 5 million deaths globally every year, and if current trends continue the death toll will have increased to 8 million by 2030.
“Faced with such a predicament, government and the people of Botswana must urgently address the issue of how to secure the health and environment of every citizen. This call is in line with Botswana’s Vision 2016, which recognizes the role of every Motswana to shepherd his or her best energies and resources towards the realization of the vision,” said El-Halabi in conclusion.