Eliminating the use of tobacco use is said to be a key factor in winning the war against cancer and other non-communicable diseases.
This was highlighted by the Anti Tobacco Network (ATN) Programs Manager Mr Thabo Katlholo when addressing attendees of the World Cancer Day commemoration in Mochudi recently. Mr Katlholo highlighted that tobacco use is the one risk factor common to the four main groups of NCDs — cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes, although it is one lethal product commonly available in the streets, near schools, health care facilities and in homes.
He further stated that scientific evidence shows that tobacco use causes at least 16 different types of cancer and it is closely associated with lung cancer, the world’s leading cause of cancer deaths, accounting for nearly one in five cancer deaths.
“Tobacco is easily and readily available in Botswana, yet it causes several cancers of the throat and oral cavity, as well as cancer in diverse sites, such as the bladder, kidney, stomach and uterine cervix,” said Mr Katlholo.
The Programs Manager further stated that tobacco does not only imperil the health of those who are actively smoking but also those around them who breathe the smoke, highlighting that second hand smoke is responsible for at least 600,000 deaths a year among non-smokers, with more than six in ten deaths due to heart disease.
Furthermore, he shared that although only about 20% of the world’s estimated 1 billion smokers are women, nearly half of deaths from second hand smoke occur among adult women and over a quarter among children under the age of five. Mr Katholo indicated that children and infants are especially vulnerable to the effects of second hand smoking which include reduced lung function, increased lung infections and asthma attacks among others.
“The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 700 million of the world's children are exposed to second-hand smoke. In spite of what science tells us, however, in many places in this country, particularly restaurants and bars, it is considered acceptable to smoke, and so rude and unaccommodating to protest that we dare not speak out against second-hand smoke,” he said.
Mr Katlholo therefore called on the government to ban smoking in public places. He advised that the ban should offer a comprehensive solution to keeping the air clean and safe for all people, both smokers and non-smokers and also puts emphasis on people's right to health and helps to make smoking the exception rather than the norm.
Meanwhile, the Programs Manager expressed concern over the increasing marketing and selling of tobacco products to minors, something he says is hindering efforts of winning the war against tobacco. He revealed that a situation analysis undertaken by ATN in 2018, shows that over half street vendors located near schools sell tobacco products.
“We further observed the sale of cigarette sweets in some kiosks near schools, and some students were seen buying cigarettes. Any effort that targets children to start tobacco at an early age is breeding cancer and other non-communicable diseases,”
Mr Katlholo called upon the government to ban all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion, particularly to children.
Anti Tobacco Network (ATN)