With the return of candy cigarettes and the aggressive marketing of tobacco products, the tobacco industry in Botswana has moved swiftly to replace their old customers with young people including school going kids.
The industry has made sure that their products are easily available to the youngsters through street vendors who operate in front of schools. The vendors sell all types of tobacco including the new ones which are deliberately made to attract young smokers through their colourful packaging. In addition, street vendors also sell candy cigarettes which desensitize children to smoking and make them more likely to use real cigarettes as adults.
The tobacco industry has also launched an aggressive marketing strategic of its deadly products on social media, especially (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). The marketing tactics come in different and deceitful ways which are appealing to the youth. The latest tactic being that of advertising new products such as shisha through social events (shisha picnics) and making it seem as the new ‘cool’ way of having fun. Sadly, the young people have fallen in to this trap as many of them believe the myth that shisha is safer than conventional tobacco products. Some young people have even indicated during our anti tobacco campaigns that they do not regard shisha as a tobacco product.
The organizers of these social events often target young social media influencers who are encouraged to share photos of their glamorous tobacco-sponsored adventures with their followers on social media using appealing hashtags. These photos end up reaching students who follow and look up to those influencers and they get encouraged to also use tobacco.
Meanwhile, a situation analysis undertaken by ATN in 2018 shows that over half street vendors located near schools sell tobacco products. The street vendors stated that most of their tobacco sales come from tertiary school students labelling them “best customers”. Additionally, this situation analysis revealed that some street vendors sell cigarettes to students despite the prohibition by the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which Botswana is a party to. The FCTC Article 15.7 stipulates that “Each Party shall endeavour to adopt and implement further measures including licensing, where appropriate, to control or regulate the production and distribution of tobacco products in order to prevent illicit trade.” There is need license the sale of tobacco products to ensure that they are not easily accessible to young children.
Anti Tobacco Network (ATN)