Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA) has called on the government to seriously consider passing the tobacco and nicotine bill which has not been passed for a long time so as to save lives.
Speaking at the civil society consortium organizations on tobacco control press briefing on Thursday, Association Executive Director Brenda Chitindi has lamented that it’s been over 12years and the tobacco control bill is still being drafted since 2009, yet the country is still encountering death, diseases, suffering and economic losses at the hands of the tarnished tobacco.
She says the corona virus, despite its many challenges, has provided an opportunity for the government to step up public education on the harms of tobacco and encouraging cessation.
She has further explained that this is a conducive time to enact the tobacco control bill when people are more health conscious.
“The ministry of health should also conduct more information and sensitization to tobacco farmers for them to know about the ills of tobacco production which have left many people with health complications, long illnesses, suffering, poverty and death”. She said.
She has however urged the Zambian tobacco farmers to diversify and venture into other nutritional and profitable crops for their sustainable income generation and general livelihoods.
Meanwhile Speaking at the same event, Tobacco Control Expert Dr. Teddy Mulenga said that there are a number of effects of tobacco on the economic and health environment, which include deforestation, greenhouse gases, addiction, brain damage, and increased risk of cancer among others.
He said the government should urgently increase and pass the tobacco and nicotine control bill urgently, as well as dissociate itself from being used by the tobacco industry to advertise themselves through community social responsibility machinations.
Dr Mulenga further emphasized on the dangers of shisha smoking in entertainment places by young people stating that it should be banned and stopped from being imported in the country as it is very harmful as compared to tobacco.
He also expressed confidence in the new minister of health Hon Sylvia Masebo, stating that with her leadership and guidance the tobacco and nicotine control bill will finally see rebirth.
“Mrs. Masebo is not new to the tobacco fight, in 2008, as minister of local government in the Mwanawasa administration, she was instrumental in passing statutory instrument number 39, that banned cigarette smoking in public places”. He said.
Dr Mulenga further said it is encouraging news looking at the fact that, the new Minister of Health has already committed herself to make sure that the tobacco and nicotine control bill is tabled through cabinet and onto parliament by February 2022.
And National Action for Quality Education in Zambia (NAQEZ) Executive Director Aron Chansa also reiterated that tobacco use prevalence has actually increased among the youth of Zambia hence the need to pass the tobacco and nicotine control bill.
He said the high accessibility and affordability of tobacco products among school going children is also compounded by very low levels of awareness about the harms of tobacco, which is dangerous to the young people.
Mr. Chansa further demanded that the new government must immediately ban the sale of tobacco products near schools and all forms of advertisements and promotions of tobacco products.
“We call upon the ministry of health and education to mount a national mass campaign on the health risks of tobacco use and the benefits of cessation”. He said.