Botswana: Tobacco Control Act under review
June 06, 2017
By TAPELA MORAPEDI
The Government is currently reviewing the Smoking Control Act of 1992 so as to enact a much stronger Tobacco Control law which shall be compliant with the World Health Organisation (WHO) Convention on Tobacco Control.
This was revealed by the Assistant Minister of Health and Wellness, Dikgang Phillip Makgalemele when officiating at the World No Tobacco Day commemoration in Selebi Phikwe on Wednesday. Makgalemele noted that tobacco companies are increasingly targeting emerging markets like Africa, Botswana included as they take full advantage of lax regulatory environments, growing populations, and increasing income which increase tobacco affordability. He explained that tobacco use is not just a health issue, but it impedes on sustainable development including environmental sustainability, economic development and social inclusion.
This year’s commemoration was held under the theme: Tobacco - a threat to development. Makgalemele explained that the World No Tobacco Day offers an opportunity for all global citizens to take stock of its actions towards addressing the complex issues around tobacco use and to leverage milestones achieved in order to develop sustainable future solutions.
He noted that Botswana has been observing this day as part of Government’s commitment to addressing issues of tobacco use since 1992. He stressed that tobacco is extremely dangerous to human health and highly damaging to national economies. The Assistant Minister said that tobacco challenges pose a heavy burden on the country’s already stressed health care system as the country has to deal with the adverse effects of tobacco use.
He revealed that Botswana conducted studies to determine the burden and extent of the problem in order to have targeted interventions. In 2002, the Government conducted the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) in which the study revealed that the overall prevalence of tobacco use stood at 14.3 percent. The prevalence for boys was 10.7 percent against 3.8 percent for girls.
Makgalemele pointed out that a repeat study was conducted in 2008 and there was a significant increase in prevalence among both sexes with boys standing at 18.1 percent while girls stood at 10.9 percent. He said that the survey conducted among adults aged between 25-64 years in 2007 indicated that 19.7 percent were smoking tobacco and 16 percent of them smoked on daily basis. The figures remained relatively unchanged in the repeat survey in 2014, he has said. The Assistant Minister pointed out that the statistics indicate that Botswana is not left out of the tobacco epidemic.
“Tobacco contributes significantly to global mortality with five percent of all deaths from communicable diseases. Fourteen percent of all deaths from non-communicable diseases among adults aged 30 years and above are attributable to tobacco use,” he said.
He further indicated that tobacco use is responsible for 10 percent of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, 22 percent of all cancer deaths and 36 percent of all deaths from diseases of the respiratory system. He further cautioned that tobacco attributable deaths are projected by modelling studies to double in low and middle income countries, Botswana included, between now and 2030.
He emphasised that tobacco affect the sustainable development as premature mortality impose high productivity costs to the economy because of sickness and deaths among the workforce. Another factor include smoking related healthcare expenditure which accounts for a significant amount that could be channelled into the development of the country.
“It is evident that tobacco is a threat to the sustainable development of all nations. Reducing tobacco use is critical to achieving all sustainable development goals in order to improve our collective health and prosperity,” he said. Giving the global perspective on the tobacco situation, WHO Country Representative, Dr Martins Ovberedjo stated that globally, tobacco kills more that 7.2 million people per year with over 80 percent form low to middle income countries. He said about 146 000 adults aged 30 years and above die every year from tobacco from tobacco related diseases I the African Region.
Ovberedjo outlined increasing of tobacco taxes and prices as “proven and effective ways to reduce demand for tobacco reducing its affordability.” He argues that this discourages consumption, improves the health of people and communities as well as reducing the burden and cost of diseases and deaths. The WHO Country Representative commended Botswana for “being one of the few countries that took the brave and unpopular decision of imposing a levy on tobacco” which he described as “a single most effective tobacco control measure.”