Tanzania: Tobacco Health, Social Perils Outweigh Monetary Benefits, Experts Argue

EXPERTS yesterday warned against health risks and adverse economic impacts of tobacco uses, calling for comprehensive public awareness campaign on tobacco related perils to individuals and government.

The experts have argued that contrary to claim that tobacco business is lucrative, its health risks are more costly in terms of treatment of tobacco related ailments.

Health specialists, speaking at the launch of Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2019 by Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF) in Dar es Salaam, reminded the public against t bacco uses.

Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) Executive Director Professor Mohamed Janabi said a single patient whose coronary arteries have been affected with smoking can spend up to 8m/- in medication while those undergoing bypass surgeries pay up to 29m/- for the procedure.

Professor Janabi said although smoking remains a global problem, Tanzania too is not isolated as tobacco related ailments have continually been reported in various health facilities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says after high blood pressure, smoking comes second as the leading risk factor for deaths, globally.

"This means that smoking is more dangerous than diabetes," Professor Janabi warned.

He further explained that the WHO report indicated that cardiovascular diseases were the leading global cause of deaths, noting that 18 million people die annually due to heart related complications, with one-fifth of them linked to tobacco uses.

According to WHO reports, smoking kills more people than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

The cardiovascular specialist said it was high time the government and other stakeholders embarked on various interventions to rescue the country from the adverse effects of tobacco amid rising cases of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

He said since its inception, JKCI has conducted minimally invasive surgeries to 4,207 patients whose arteries had been damaged by cholesterol or smoking, "If these patients were to be referred abroad, they could pay 30m/- each for their medication."

Director for Cancer Preventive Services at Ocean Road Cancer Institute Dr Johnson Katanga said cancer related complications come second in the NCD list after cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Katanga observed that globally, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancerrelated deaths, explaining that researches have shown that tobacco smoke contains 4,000 chemicals, with 70 of them confirmed to cause, initiate or promote cancer.

According to researches, he said, 32 per cent of patients who attend ORCI suffer from tobacco related ailments.

Dr Katanga argued that tobacco related diseases have huge burdens on not only the government but also individuals and families because treating one patient can cost up to 5m/-.

He said in 2012, there were 14.5 million new cancer patients reported globally but the number increased to 17 million last year.

"It is estimated that the number of cancer cases worldwide will increase by 62 per cent by 2030," he said, adding currently, NCDs were the leading causes of deaths beating HIV/AIDS and Malaria.

He said in 2002, the cancer institute received 2,500 new cases but in this year alone, 4,320 new patients have been reported at the public facility.

TTCF Executive Director Lutgard Kagaruki said the new index shows that tobacco industry has great interference in Tanzania.

Ms Kagaruki underscored the need for the government to come up with effective legislations on tobacco control to enable Tanzanians enjoy their right to a healthy environment and tobacco-free lifestyles.

Tanzania ratified the WHO FCTC in 2007 and it was agreed that a new FCTC compliant tobacco control law be enacted to replace the flawed and outdated Tobacco Products (Regulation) Act, 2003 (TPRA, 2003) but the law has since not been enacted.

"Within East Africa, Tanzania remains the only country without comprehensive tobacco control law, which is in line with WHO FCTC. Zanzibar has an effective law," she charged.

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