Gaborone City Council (GCC) councilors say the government of Botswana should adopt comprehensive tobacco products legislation after recognizing the devastating impacts of tobacco on human health, the environment and the economy.
Responding to the presentation by the Anti-Tobacco Network (ATN) a non-governmental organization, founding Secretary Bontle Mbongwe, Deputy Mayor Florence Shagwa said there is need to raise burning issues of tobacco in Botswana as well as for NGOs to work with the government in developing measures to address illicit trade of tobacco in Botswana.
She stated that tobacco issues have negative impact on the economy of the country.
Councilor Seabelo Thekiso also echoed the same words, stating that the creative and entertainment industry is also illegally advertising tobacco products in many ways.
He also said NGOs like ATN should also check with the Botswana Bureau of Standards if the illegal tobacco cigarettes in the streets are of the required standard.
“A lot of youngsters are coping from their role models smoking cigars for pleasure,” said Thekiso.
Councilor Matsheka said he has experienced before in a lot of foreign-owned stores, managers smoking in the offices, with the customers and employees exposed to smoking. He said he observed that most smokers are illiterate therefore they smoke tobacco without reading the message written on cigarettes packets.
“The legislation should prohibit the sale of tobacco products, licensing, deceptive labels on tobacco products,” he said.
Mbongwe said that in the next five years, ATN wants to lobby for the raising of tobacco tax and price to discourage use by children and poor people, and to such revenues to implement interventions to assist tobacco products in Botswana. She further said that the current Smoking Act of 1992 states prohibition of sales of tobacco products to and by persons below 18.
“The tobacco industry also increased the number of informal businesses selling cigarettes near schools and making cigarettes available to all,” Mbongwe said. “This is evident enough that the government is spending a lot of money on medical treatment on cancer and heart diseases due to smoking of tobacco.”
Mbongwe pleaded to Councilors to further tobacco education to both urban and rural areas. She labeled politicians as influential leaders who could assist in tobacco control.