Economic benefits of tobacco in Zambia exaggerated – TOFAZA

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    TOFAZA executive director Brenda Chitindi

    THE Zambia Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA) says enactment of the tobacco control bill in Parliament is the main tool for confronting the growing tobacco-related disease crisis in the country.

    TOFAZA executive director Brenda Chitindi is proposing acceleration to adopt the tobacco control bill.

    Chitindi contends that while the economic contribution of the tobacco sector in Zambia is negligible, the same is inflated.

    In a write-up, Chitindi states that there is need for quick action from the Minister of Health’s office, insofar as supporting and enacting the tobacco control bill.

    She explains that doing this will entail protecting the health and well-being of all Zambians, especially the youth, who are being initiated into tobacco use through Shisha and electronic nicotine devices.

    Chitindi argues that while the Zambian government is undoubtedly facing tough resourcing and implementation decisions to achieve ambitious developmental goals, the tobacco control bill intervention is also offering the unique opportunity to accelerate national health and development at the same time.

    “To achieve the foregoing, we believe enactment of the Tobacco Control Bill is the main tool for confronting the growing tobacco-related disease crisis in Zambia,” Chitindi says.

    She argues that in its current form, the tobacco control bill contains a comprehensive set of measures that are compliant with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

    WHO-FCTC is the legally binding international treaty of which Zambia is a party to.

    Chitindi explains that if implemented effectively, the measures proposed in the draft tobacco control bill should drive down and prevent consumption of deadly tobacco products in Zambia.

    She says tobacco use in Zambia causes a heavy burden of diseases.

    Chitindi notes that scientific evidences have plainly established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes disabilities among people.

    “In Zambia, the latest evidence shows that tobacco causes death of 7,142 Zambians every year. Tobacco is also an important risk factor for the four main Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among them cardio-vascular disease (CVD), cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease – and is a comorbid with tuberculosis (TB) and HIV,” she says.

    Chitindi explains that if Zambia fully implemented and enforced the tobacco control bill, the government would over the period of 15 years manage to save 40,349 lives of people who will greatly contribute positively to the development of the nation due to their labour and services.

    She adds that tobacco control in Zambia is crucial for economic development.

    She says tobacco use imposes significant social, economic and environmental harm on individuals, families and communities across the country.

    “In addition to medical treatment costs, tobacco-related diseases cause working age (productive Zambians) to stop work, work less, or work less well, and their economic contributions diminish or even become negative as a result,” says Chitindi.

    “This, in turn, impedes the nation’s economic development. Estimations are that currently, there are one million adult smokers in Zambia and this is predicted to increase without adequate tobacco control measures.”

    Chitindi explains that evidence from countries around the world show that the poorest and most marginalised are more likely to consume tobacco and at younger ages, and to be exposed to second-hand smoke.

    “Implementation of the tobacco control bill in Zambia is a vital step towards reducing the growing inequalities and generating a healthy and productive society,” Chitindi says.

    “We therefore hereby making a passionate appeal to the Minister of Health to intervene and protect the Zambia tobacco control bill from tobacco industry interference.”

    She notes that despite the obvious economic and health benefits, several criticisms and arguments against elements of the tobacco control bill have emerged.

    Chitindi says many of those criticisms and arguments are the same ones used by tobacco companies against tobacco control legislation across the world.

    “The economic benefits of tobacco farming in Zambia are exaggerated. Tobacco represents only a small percentage of total agricultural products exported in Zambia and employs only 0.5 per cent of small and medium-scale farmers,” explains Chitindi.

    “Studies have found that 60 per cent of tobacco farmers in Zambia are considering switching to other crops, citing factors such as poor yield returns, tobacco cultivation-related illness and exploitation by cigarette manufacturer and leaf-buyers, leading to dependency and increased debt.”

    Kalemba March 22, 2021

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