In the good old days it was taboo to smoke in front of an elder. These days it is not surprising to find a youth asking for a lighter or even sharing a cigarette with someone old enough to be their grandparent.
Botswana is seeing a significant increase in the use of tobacco products.
This has led to an increase in the prevalence of non communicable diseases, which were predominantly observed in developed countries.
“Tobacco epidemic kills 5.5 million people a year from lung cancer, heart diseases and other illnesses, unchecked, that number will increase to more than 20 million a year by 2030,” WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan warned.
According to the Republic of Botswana Tobacco Control Situational Analysis Report of April 2010, cancer and other chronic diseases are on the increase.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health indicate that cancer cases have been growing from just under 800 cases in 1999 to 12 115 at the beginning of 2010.
These statistics are in keeping with the trends in other developing countries and are for the most part contributed to by increasing use of tobacco products.
Data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) shows that compared to 2001, girls’ current tobacco use prevalence has increased by 4.4 percent, despite progress and commitment by the Government of Botswana, such as signing of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 and 2005 respectively.
Prior to this development, Botswana had enacted its first legislation on tobacco control, the Control of Smoking Act in 1992, whose main focus was to control Environmental Tobacco Smoke in enclosed public and work places, educational institutions and hospitals, as well as to ban tobacco advertising.
There are major setbacks on tobacco control efforts in Botswana. These include advertising and access to minors; cigarettes are easily accessible on the streets and are sold with sweets and snacks.
According to the report, illicit trade of tobacco is also on the rise. Approximately 5 690 200 smuggled cigarettes are reported to have been confiscated by the Customs Division between December 2009 and January 2010. The smuggling was done at both gazetted and non gazetted points of entry.