Botswana’s New Tobacco Control Law Will Save Lives and Prioritize Public Health

Botswana’s New Tobacco Control Law Will Save Lives and Prioritize Public Health

Statement of Leonce SESSOU, Executive Secretary of the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) on the adoption of a strong tobacco control law in Botswana
Published in the official gazette on 29th October 2021, Botswana’s tobacco control law is a life-saving instrument, and one of the strong tobacco control legislations in Africa. The law, which repeals and re-enacts the Control of Smoking Act of July 1, 1993 (Cap. 65:04), very well aligns with the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to which Botswana is a party since January 2005.

Amongst other very important points, the law establishes a Tobacco Control Committee, institutes a license to sell tobacco or any tobacco product, prohibits smoking in public places, prohibits tobacco advertising promotion and sponsorship, mandates Pictorial Health Warnings on tobacco product packaging and labelling covering not less than 70 percent of each principal display area, and prohibits the sale of tobacco products to and by people younger than 21. It protects tobacco control policies from commercial and other interests of the tobacco industry by limiting government interactions with the tobacco industry to only when necessary for effective regulation of the tobacco industry or tobacco products, mandating full transparency at all interactions with the industry. The law prohibits government partnerships with, endorsements of, or support from the tobacco industry, as well as government incentives or privileges related to any phase of the production or marketing of tobacco products or growing of tobacco.

Every year, more than 1500 people are killed by tobacco-caused diseases in Botswana according to the Tobacco Atlas. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey, GATS Botswana 2017, reveals that up to 17.6 percent or 240,000 adults of the population of about 2.3 million, use tobacco. This rate is one of the highest in Africa. There is no doubt that the new tobacco control legislation, if well implemented, will greatly contribute to bring down this high number of deaths attributable to tobacco use.

The African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) congratulates Botswana for enacting such a robust tobacco control legislation. ATCA reiterates that only stringent application of the FCTC can effectively help reduce the tobacco burden in any country. As such, the alliance urges the Government of Botswana to implement this new legislation swiftly and strictly, ensuring that penalties, including fines and other corrective actions are served defaulters as stipulated by the law. ATCA also commends Civil Society Organizations whose advocacy efforts helped guarantee that the bill stays as strong as it is and gets voted in parliament.

It has been almost 17 years since Botswana demonstrated engagement to protect its people from tobacco by ratifying the FCTC. The tobacco industry no doubt fought to delay adoption of this law. Its rapid implementation will ensure that thousands of lives are saved from the devasting effects of tobacco use.

Media contact: AYONG I. CALEB