Time to re-think our anti-smoking strategies

By Lahja Nashuuta

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) introduced the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which recommends the inclusion of pictures on tobacco package, it was hailed by many health experts as a move on the right direction to curb smoking.

Article 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control adopted during the Third Conference of the Parties in November 2008 reveals that well-designed package warnings on cigarette are a highly cost effective means to increase awareness of the health effects and to reduce tobacco use.

Although the move was not fully supported by the tobacco industry as majority believed that gruesome pictures won’t have any consequences, many countries went ahead with the implementation.

While some are still in the process towards ratifying.

The tobacco industry has suggested that the use of large pictures may reduce the effectiveness of health warnings and could actually lead to increase in smoking behaviour.

The former chief executive officer of British American Tobacco is record saying: “The growing use of graphic image health warnings … can offend and harass consumers – yet in fact give them no more information than print warnings”

Namibia is among the first 77 countries that are currently carrying health warning pictures include images of rotten teeth, cancer-infected lungs and a number of other diseases caused by smoking on their cigarette packages.

Other countries in SADC include Mauritius, Swaziland and Seychelles.

As per the Tobacco Control Act of 2010, companies that export cigarettes to Namibia are required to place graphic images to the packets as a scare tactics to discourage people from smoking.

This ministry of health noted that such images will make smokers think of their health and be careful about choices they make in their life.

But despite these efforts, global statistic is still skyrocketing and one may conclude that this initiative is like a toothless bull dog that does not bite.

According to the WHO Global Report on Tuberculosis for 2015, HIV’s death toll in 2014 was estimated at 1.2 million, which included the 0.4 million TB deaths among HIV positive people.

Worldwide, 9.6 million people are estimated to have fallen ill with TB in 2014, of which 5.4 million men, 3.2 million women and 1.0 million children. Globally, 12 percent of the 9.6 million new TB cases in 2014 were HIV-positive.

Apart from that year 6 million new cases of TB were reported to WHO in the same year, less than two-thirds or 63% of the 9.6 million people estimated to have fallen sick with the disease.

This means that worldwide, 37 percent of new cases went undiagnosed or were not reported.

Despite great strides in controlling tuberculosis (TB), Namibia remains one of the 10 countries most affected by the communicable disease in the region.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) rated Namibia fourth after Swaziland, South Africa and Sierra Leone.

With the World Health Organization warning that tobacco-related deaths could soar to eight billion a year by 2030, nations around the world have been putting more efforts to rein in tobacco use.

While there are already initiatives to address this problem, I recommend that such efforts and strategies set to curb smoking rate should be accompanied with rehabilitation programmes.

I strongly believe that for those warning picture to have an impact,  we first need to change the mind-set of the smokers especially those that are addicted.

Ofcouse it’s difficult to watch someone you care about smoke their lives away. However, smokers need to make the decision to quit because they realise it will benefit them, not because someone else wants them to. They might stop smoking for your sake, but they won’t stay stopped unless they’re doing it for themselves.

So let’s come up with more programmes that will influence a smoker’s behaviour and can assist him or her in making the decision to quit.

There are self-help materials and organisations that can give support to people trying to quit, so let’s make use of those initiatives.

Until then . . .

April 2016
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