31 May 2017

Africa: Govts Called On to Implement Strong Policies Against Tobacco Smoking

Dar es Salaam — Governments across the world, including Tanzania, are being called upon to implement strong tobacco control measures as the world marks World No Tobacco Day this Wednesday.

The day's theme is "Tobacco - a threat to development." The world is highlighting tobacco-related health risks and advocating effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

In its key facts issued on tobacco on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the tobacco threatens development and that 860 million adult smokers live in low- and middle-income countries.

Many studies have shown that in the poorest households, spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10 per cent of total household expenditure - meaning less money for food, education and healthcare.

Tobacco farming stops children attending school. 10-14 per cent of children from tobacco-growing families miss class because of working in tobacco fields.

According to WHO, 60-70 per cent of tobacco farm workers are women, putting them in close contact with often hazardous chemicals. Yet, tobacco contributes to 16 per cent of all noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) deaths.

"The WHO recommends higher taxes on companies dealing in tobacco business. If the number of smokers goes down, so does the tobacco-related diseases," says Ms Kagaruki who, over the years, has been very vocal against tobacco smoking through an organization, Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF).

She told The Citizen that strong political will is needed in dealing with cigarette or tobacco smoking, as she cited an example from other countries, such as Australia which have made strides in tobacco control.

On the World No Tobacco Day, governments are being called on to ban the marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$ 1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.

"Tobacco threatens us all," says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. "Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air."

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