The humanity capacity for self destruction is unfathomable at times. There are myriad examples, but today I will focus on one - tobacco/cigarettes use. Why on earth should someone smoke tobacco knowing very well, you are smoking life out of your system? Why die of something preventable!
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 7 million people (smokers) and about 600,000 non-smokers every year die from tobacco-related diseases. Looking at that picture, then it's a paradox of paradoxes that many governments across the world (including Tanzania) allow tobacco use, but at the same time ascribe to WHO.
WHO every year has a day (May 31) known as World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) to discourage smoking and tobacco business across the globe. Since 1987, WHO has been disseminating information about the dangers of using all forms of tobacco, which have massive negative health effects on active and passive users.
This year, the global body main message was that apart from tobacco being a threat to people's health it also threatens the development of nations. The 2017 theme WNTD was "Tobacco - a threat to development."
WHO director of the Department for the Prevention on Non-communicable Diseases, Dr Douglas Bettcher, made it clear that "Tobacco-related death and illness are drivers of poverty, leaving households without breadwinners, diverting limited household resources to purchase tobacco products rather than food and school materials, and forcing many people to pay for medical expenses." Do I need to say more?
Our country became a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2007, but to what extent has the convention been implemented? The mere fact alone that smokers in Tanzania are at discretion of smoking in public, is a bad indicator. Yes, there is a law that bars anyone from smoking in public, as nonsmokers, who inhale are adversely affected. But do smokers follow the law? We don't hear much of implementation. When you go to a shop, a smoker buys a cigarette and lights it up there.
In 2013, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and the WHO study indicated that about 17.5 per cent of people in households (Tanzania) "who did not actively smoke tobacco were exposed to the substance by other smokers. And, 24.9 per cent are exposed to the tobacco smoke in workplaces." How terrible!
Some stakeholder bodies like@AfricaNoTobacco, a non-profit Pan-African network of more than 120 Civil Society Organisations, are working hard to promote health by building a tobacco-free Africa. I think this should be the way. In Tanzania, khat is illegal. So, is bhang. Why can't we do the same for the destructive tobacco! There is a need to fully enforce the WHO Convention on tobacco if Tanzania wants "to protect present and future generations" from fatal adverse consequences for tobacco and protect the well-being of the nation and people.
There are reports the government has promised to repel the Tobacco Products (Regulations) Act, 2013 so as to curb tobacco related diseases. According to the Ministry of Health official, Dr Sarah Maongezi, there will be a ban on public advertisement of tobacco products in the billboards, TV and radio stations. Well and good. What we need to see is action. At least if nonsmokers are fully protected from smokers within the law that will be a big step. Likewise, if tobacco companies, which are very moneyed, are denied the right to introduce smoking to children through their flashy advertisements, it will be another big step.
Tobacco is a big business globally. Tobacco companies have immense financial resources to influence governments in the developed world as well as third world. Only moral governments can win the war against such.
The author is an assistant lecturer at Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE).