Enacting tobacco legislation key to controling abuse
Published On March 21, 2024 » 1488 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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By THANDIWE MOYO –
TOBACCO is a product that has significant economic benefits, but its threat on human health cannot be ignored, with studies suggesting that it is a primary cause of premature death.
This is in addition to the product having a telling impact on the health of young people.
Increased tobacco abuse among young people and women currently is of concern as the trend has brought about more harm than good.
Generally, people have been using tobacco in many ways; through sniffing what is commonly referred to as ‘insunko’ (ground tobacco); and the shisha method, which is done through a bowl and a tube, and is flavoured in a fruity, minty substance.
Sadly, some women, especially in Zambia, have developed the urge and skill to sniff ‘insunko’, believing that it is good for body warmth and gives them more energy.
These methods, driven by myths, have hooked users to using nicotine and tobacco, driving a global epidemic that causes untold harm to human health.
Eighteen-year-old Chilumba Kazembe, a student at one of the private universities in Lusaka, discusses her addiction to shisha.
She explains that her addiction started when friends advised her to use shisha so that she could get better grades and calm her nerves.
Ms Kazembe says since most pubs and shopping malls displayed shisha bowls, it was easy for her and her friends to access the substance.
She says to her surprise, the addiction made her unable to study normally as she was compelled to inhale shisha often.
“I was advised wrongly. The shisha inhaling practice is now causing me to have low grades because I am addicted to the substance,” she says, adding that whenever she inhales shisha, she wants more of it instead of studying.
Ms Kazembe says currently, she cannot stay for a long time without using shisha, and whenever she has little money, she resorts to smoking cigarettes in order to feed her addiction.
“I have tried all I can to stop inhaling shisha but all my efforts are to no avail,” Ms Kazembe says.
She advises other students not to use shisha, warning that the practice brings more harm than good to one’s life.
Ms Kazembe further calls on authorities to ensure that shisha bowls are not publicly displayed as teenagers under the influence of peer pressure get tempted to abuse the substance.
Ms Kazembe, who is hopeful that doctors will help to bring her addiction under control, advises her fellow students to desist from any sort of tobacco use.
Twenty-two-year-old Chibemba Mwesa, a resident of Bauleni Township in Lusaka, also reveals how she has struggled with tobacco addiction through sniffing insunko.
She says she is addicted to sniffing insunko, and that the addiction is now beyond her control.
Tobacco Control Consortium of Zambia (TCCZ) Acting Chairperson Albert Phiri expresses sadness that young people are indulging in self destructive activities such as using shisha.
Speaking in an interview recently, Mr Phiri expresses concern about the health of young people who get entangled with substance abuse.
He says a healthy nation leads to high productivity.
The TCCZ chairperson says youths are the most important human resource for national development, and that if poverty is to be fought, young people are supposed to be engaging in productive activities.
Center for Primary Care Research (CPCR) Director Fastone Goma, who emphasized the dangers of tobacco, said shisha and sniffing tobacco lead to abnormalities or brain dysfunction.
Professor Goma said in an interview recently that chemicals that were added to the tobacco in shisha are a health hazard.
He said tobacco has more than 3,000 chemicals which, if absorbed, cause different cancers, such as cancer of the throat and damage to the brain.
Prof Goma said shisha smoking has the same effects like any other tobacco use, and extreme usage could be a conduit of mental health in some people.
Globally, tobacco is said to cause more than 8 million deaths annually, 7 million of which are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second hand smoke.
Recently, emerging new tobacco products, such as Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), or vaping, are rapidly prevailing all over the world.
These products contain nicotine, which not only causes high dependency, but also serves as a potent vasoconstrictor with serious consequences on health.
Several constituents of tobacco contribute to Non Communicable Diseases (NDCs), including cancers.
The shisha-vaping trend has spread with a common belief that the risk of tobacco is reduced since the smoke is purified as it passes through the water.
Nonetheless, health experts, and the World Health Organisation (WHO), insist that after shisha has passed through the water, the smoke produced still contains high levels of toxic compounds, including carbon monoxide, heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals.
WHO says shisha smoke contains 15 times more carbon dioxide and 36 times more tar compared to a single cigarette, making shisha smoking extremely harmful to health.
In spite of the destructive impact of tobacco on human health and the high number of deaths caused globally, it is sad that there is little or no control on issues around tobacco use, and tobacco products are abused by young people, such as students, who are usually below the age of reasoning.
Zambia acceded to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2008, but the country has not yet domesticated the tobacco control law.
Even though there are pieces of legislation bordering on tobacco control, like the Public Health Act of 1992 and Statutory Instrument (SI) number 39 of 2008, no legislation exists on pack warnings, pictorial health warnings, no bans on point of sale and advertising, thus making it hard to control the usage of tobacco among young people and the nation at large.
The Tobacco Control Bill is the essence of a domestication of the WHO FCTC to which Zambia became a signatory on 23 May, 2008.
However, up to now, the WHO FCTC has not yet been domesticated.
The hazardous nature of tobacco usage calls for governments to renew the focus on the tobacco control policies that are proven to help smokers quit, and to prevent them from becoming addicted.
It is important to enact tobacco control legislation to help control tobacco abuse.
When enacted, the tobacco control law will help to implement six main measures provided for the FCTC, which is;
• banning tobacco advertising
• raising taxes on tobacco
• putting graphic health warnings labels on tobacco packets

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