Need to iron out issues around tobacco
Published On August 23, 2022 » 1179 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
 0 stars
Register to vote!
• THE tobacco industry continues to advance the economic benefits emanating from the crop, such as job creation, among others.

DEBATE on the importance of public health against economic gains from agro products such as tobacco has continued dividing public opinion.
On the one hand, Government, through the Ministry of Health and players in the tobacco industry, are trying to strike a balance of having a healthy and productive nation through a well regulated tobacco sector.
On the other hand, the smooth running of affairs in the tobacco space is aimed at reducing the effects of Non-Communicable Diseases (NDCs) that are said to be responsible for an estimated annual 7 million deaths globally, 400,000 of which occur in Zambia, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
To ensure that this alarming death rate is reduced, a piece of legislation will help reduce the harmful side of tobacco on people’s health.
But the tobacco industry continues to count the economic benefits emanating from the crop, such as job creation, among others.
Nevertheless, the Government and the tobacco sector have for some time been discussing the formulation of the Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhalants Control Bill that is seen as an obligation to protect the public from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.
If this law comes into effect, it will be in line with the country’s commitment to attain aspirations of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).
The WHO-FCTC treaty was developed in response to the globalisation of the tobacco epidemic, which is facilitated through a variety of complex factors with cross-border effects, including trade liberalisation and direct foreign investment.
Other factors, such as global marketing, transnational tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and the international movement of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes, have also contributed to theincrease in tobacco use.
The WHO-FCTC represents a paradigm shift in developing a regulatory strategy to address addictive substances.
In contrast to previous drug control treaties, the WHO-FCTC asserts the importance of demand reduction strategies on tobacco as well as supply issues.
Once enacted, the Bill will become an Act of Parliament that will also provide guidelines on tobacco products, tobacco devices, and nicotine inhalant products and the tobacco industry, including the manufacturing, import and sale.
The Act will further look at tobacco packaging, labelling, advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of the products and devices, their use in public and workplaces and to provide matters connected with or incidental.
A number of meetings have been convened jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Centre for Primary Care Research – University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Medicine to disseminate a number of findings in relation to tobacco control.
Centre for Primary Care Research director Fastone Goma said most tobacco farmers struggled to make ends meet while tobacco companies were seemingly getting richer.
Professor Goma said apart from the many health implications that tobacco had including causing 40 different types of cancers, the struggles of tobacco farmers around the country were in contrast with the information that tobacco was a beneficial cash crop.
“The tobacco industry’s narrative suggests that growing tobacco leaf provides a good living for thousands of Zambian farmers. The results of a major survey of a nationally-representative sample of small-scale tobacco farmers and follow-up focus groups unequivocally demonstrate the opposite scenario,” he said.
According to some findings, Zambia is said to have more than 56,000 children hooked on smoking, with a growing number being addicted to shisha, a modern piped tobacco, and 105,200 adults continue to use tobacco each day.
Among the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) championing the cause of tobacco control is Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA).
TOFAZA executive director Brenda Chitindi said the Ministry of Health should calculate figures on how much the government was spending treating tobacco-related sicknesses.
“We have been told by the tobacco industry that tobacco is contributing to the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) but we would also like to have figures on how much money the government is losing treating patients either locally and those evacuated due to tobacco caused diseases,” she said.
The spread of different sorts of tobacco has covered a number of segments of communities some embracing the habits without really appreciating the effects on their health.
One such product that has increasingly become famous among women smokers and sniffers is Isunko, a locally sniffed powdered tobacco.
Ireen Phiri of Lusaka’s Chilenje Township said she has been hooked on the powdered tobacco.
“Isunko is so much liked among us women. We find pleasure in it because it has some benefits for us. It warms up our bodies and most men love warm women, so we enjoy using it,” she says.
At a number of fora, political leadership has called for wider consultation of the importance of the Bill for both the health and trade implications for the good of the country.
In Zambia, it has been argued that about US$120 million is derived from tobacco in taxes to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) and that about 247, 000 jobs had been created in the tobacco sector.
However, some tobacco control researchers, such as Richard Zulu, have a different view point on the said economic benefits from tobacco.
Mr Zulu argued that health is far more important than any amount of money one can think of.
“Life is more precious than any amount of money or wealth,” Mr Zulu said.
All the concerns and controversy around tobacco should be ironed out for the good of public health.

Share this post

About The Author