The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Shennaz El-Halabi, has expressed concern at the tobacco industry’s way of promoting its business in the country, which she said has to be exposed.
She observed that in its efforts, the industry maximizes profits at the expense of human lives.
El-Halabi described the tobacco industry as the principal ‘vector’ of tobacco caused disease.
She said some of the tactics used by the tobacco industry can be identified through using the media to promote positions favourable to the industry as well as targeting the African market because of the development stages of the countries in this continent.
“Intimidation using the legal and economic power as a means of harassing and frightening opponents who support tobacco control as well corporate social responsibility also cause a concern,” she said.
She further said that there is need to mitigate against the different approaches to achieve comprehensive tobacco control. El-Halabi gave an example of the World Health Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which she said is evidence based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health. She said the FCTC requires parties to exclude the tobacco industry from involvement in the development of tobacco control policies including legislation, administrative measures and other health programmes.
“We cannot recognize tobacco industry as a legitimate stakeholder in tobacco control matters and the industry has an interest in selling tobacco but has no interest in promoting public health,” said El-Halabi.
Furthermore, she highlighted that Botswana does not grow or manufacture tobacco products and added that it, therefore, is a net importer of tobacco. She said that the profits for tobacco sales only leave Botswana and so do not benefit the economy but instead contribute to a negative balance in trade.
She applauded NGOs, such as Anti Tobacco Network (ATN), for instituting rigorous public awareness campaigns and partnerships aimed at exposing the tactics of the tobacco industry to ensure that all branches of government and public are informed and made aware of the true purpose and scope of activities of the tobacco industry.
Meanwhile, world No Tobacco Day 2012 was celebrated on Thursday under the theme Tobacco Industry Interference and Ministry of Health recognized ATN as a partner in the fight against tobacco.