The government has acknowledged that tobacco is a threat to health and a lot has to be done to control and help the nation to change people’s mindset to save lives.
This was said by the University of Botswana Environmental Health Lecturer, Ms Bontle Mbongwe, at the Tobacco Control in Botswana Consultative Workshop.
She was addressing the media and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) at the two day workshop in Gaborone on Wednesday.
She pointed out that tobacco is a commodity that is prescribed for human death and a product that is addictive.
“The more tobacco issues being talked about, the less chance of the spread of cancer. There is overlooked cost of harm to the well being of poor families whose scare resources are used for cigarettes and other tobacco products, instead of food and other necessities. Reducing tobacco use is good for health, good economics, and good for development,” said Mbongwe.
She also appealed to the public to take into consideration the environmental damages of tobacco.
“The tobacco industry may employ people and at the same time it can be considered an example of wasted labour, capital and resources,” added Mbongwe.
The theme for the workshop was Advancing Media and NGOs Advocacy for Tobacco Control In Botswana.
The University of Botswana was in collaboration with the African Tobacco Control Consortium (ATCC), the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and the African Tobacco Regional Initiative (ATCRI).
The purpose of the training was to enhance journalists and NGOs capacities to build alliances amongst different tobacco control stakeholders. It also aimed to identify and create a pool of journalists and NGOs with special dedication to tobacco control issues.
For her part, the Environmental Health journalist, Ms. Flora Mmereki advised the media to promote health and send positive messages.
“The media are the drivers of change and we have to help by changing the mind set and assist the nation live positively. We have to broadcast and write comprehensively and continuous stories on behavioural change,” said Mmereki.
She pointed out the importance of mainstreaming tobacco control in news stories, strategies to avoid the pitfall of the tobacco industry and elements of good health reporting. ┬á
The World Health Organization (WHO) representative, Dr. Eugene Nyarko, urged the NGOs to make use of the opportunities to fight the tobacco war, including diseases like cancer, respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases.
“Protection of citizens comes first, failing which we will have unhealthy citizens. They are the most targeted by the tobacco industry and a lot of harm has been done,” said Nyarko. He also promised assistance in humanitarian projects that do not promote tobacco.