A number of Law Enforcement Officers from the different districts in Botswana have vowed to work closely together with all key stakeholders to ensure that there is full compliance with the current Control of Smoking Act (CoA) following the realisation that the poor compliance with the Act is a nationwide problem.
The law enforcers comprising of the Environmental Health Officers representing different districts in the country as well as representatives from the Botswana Police Service made the vow during a five day training workshop in Gaborone recently organized by the Anti Tobacco Network (ATN). The workshop was officiated by ATN Executive Director Prof. Bontle Mbongwe who highlighted that its main objective was to train the officers on how to effectively enforce all sections of the Control of Smoking Act to ensure that the public is protected from the harms of tobacco use. In addition, the workshop was meant to equip the participants with all the necessary skills to be able to monitor the tobacco industry activities in their respective districts.
The workshop revealed that the CoA enforcement is currently not being prioritised hence the poor compliance and enforcement. The law enforcement officers admitted that they have not been doing much in enforcing the Act and this has resulted in business owners not complying with the requirements of the Act. Prior to the workshop, the participants were given a task to inspect businesses at their respective districts for compliance and the inspections revealed that the level of compliance with the Control of Smoking Act is poor. The same problem is also in Gaborone as participants visited three different malls being Riverwalk, Airport Junction and Station /Busrank during the workshop as part of their field training. The businesses that were inspected at these malls included Restaurants, Supermarkets and filling stations. Lack of knowledge about the requirements of the Act has been cited as the main reason for poor compliance as most of the business managers interviewed indicted that they were not aware of what the act requires of them.
In restaurants for example, the smoking areas are not physically detached from the non-smoking areas as stipulated in the Control of Smoking Act, Section 4; sub section 3(a) which states that the owners of the establishments must ensure that smoking areas are “physically detached from the rooms where smoking is not allowed, or, where they are not physically detached, that they are separately ventilated”. Additionally, the No Smoking signs in these businesses were also non-compliant with the Act in terms of size and contents. The poor compliance with the Act poses a serious health threat to the members of the public including children as there are not protected from second hand smoke due to non-compliant smoking areas. Further, under aged children have easy access to tobacco products which increases the number of young people who use tobacco, something which we should be worried as a country especially during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In order to ensure an effective enforcement and full compliance, the law enforcers have recommended a vigorous public awareness campaign on the CoA as well as regular inspections of businesses and other public places. Also, the full participation by the authorities including the Ministry of Health and Wellness and other leaders from different is said to be crucial in the successful implementation of the Act.
Anti Tobacco Network (ATN)