The Anti Tobacco Network Executive Director Professor Bontle Mbongwe has called on the government to adopt a gradual process when lifting the current ban on the sale and importation of tobacco products. In her World No Tobacco Day 2020 speech, Prof. Mbongwe highlighted that the prohibition of tobacco and tobacco related products sales and imports by the Botswana Government is a commendable initiative because of the relationship between COVID-19 and tobacco use, indicating that a gradual process is required in lifting the ban so that social distancing rules are not violated by the youth who are known to sit in groups to smoke.
“The measures taken should be aimed at ensuring that the youth do not have easy access to tobacco products such as hubbly bubbly, usually smoked in groups and shared, therefore having the potential to spread the virus,” said Prof. Mbongwe.
The Executive Director called upon the Government to put the following in place prior to lifting the tobacco sales ban:
- Completely ban the sale and use of the hubbly Bubbly (Shisha) which is usually smoked in groups using shared mouth pieces that are a channel for transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases including tuberculosis. As highlighted in our previous call, during such smoking sessions, it is practically impossible to maintain social distance to avoid transmission of COVID -19. It must be remembered that the sharing of tobacco products by its users pose the danger of spreading COVID-19 through contaminated saliva. Several countries in Africa have banned sale and use of hubbly bubbly. Along with this recommendation we call on the Government to prohibit vape, shisha and e-cigarette shops or kiosks as they attract young people to smoke
- Totally ban smoking in all public places. Again this is more pressing in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The reduction of environmental tobacco smoke, both second and thirdhand will save children, workers and people with respiratory and other non-Communicable Diseases. The ban must be enforced particularly in schools
- Make accessible tobacco levy funds, collected since 2014 to establish nationwide quit smoking programs. The tobacco sales ban during the state of emergency must be accompanied by measures to assist smokers having difficulty to quit on their own. COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to encourage the world’s smokers to quit smoking.
- Ban the sale of tobacco products in homes and street vendors located near schools, including positioning of tobacco products near sweets, snacks, or soft drinks. Banning the sale of tobacco products in homes and street vendors will reduce access to tobacco products. It has been reported in the past that children took cigarettes from home to sell to their peers in schools,
- Finally, in the long term, we call upon the Government to expedite the long pending comprehensive tobacco Control law that that is fully compliant with the WHO Framework Convention on tobacco control. Among others the law must have provisions for large pictorial warnings on tobacco products and bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, prohibit flavoured tobacco products given the clear evidence these products attract and addict children and young adults. These measures will protect children and young adults and health from this predatory industry.
Prof Mbongwe further stated that the 2020 World No Tobacco Day, #TobaccoExposed campaign is well timed to highlight the dangerous link between tobacco use and respiratory diseases. “Current scientific evidence highlights that smoking worsens outcomes for COVID-19 patients. Never has the need pay attention to tobacco use been so important. Most importantly, the #tobaccoexposed campaign exposes the tobacco industry’s evil tactics to accelerate the marketing and promotion of both old and newer tobacco products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products,” she said.
Anti Tobacco Network