While Namibia has made significant progress in the anti-tobacco fight, the country records at least 1 000 tobacco-related deaths annually.
This was revealed by deputy health minister Esther Muinjangue at an ongoing anti-tobacco workshop in Rundu earlier this week.
One of the chief highlights of this progress is the total ban of advertisements of tobacco products in electronic and print media, billboards as well as promotion before the Tobacco Products Control Act of 2010 was signed into law.
“As a country, we can proudly pronounce that we have made great strides in controlling the ravages of tobacco, as well as meeting standards set out in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) under the World Health Organisation (WHO),” Muinjangue said Monday.
She made the remarks during the official opening of the training on the Tobacco Control ACT, which is currently underway in Rundu.
The purpose of the week-long training is to raise awareness and build capacity through stakeholder engagement within government, private sector, business communities and the general public.
“The Tobacco Products Control Act was passed into law in 2010, followed by the regulations that were passed in 2014. These legal instruments changed the landscape in the manner in which tobacco may be handled.
“The government took a stance to encourage farming in other cash crops other than tobacco. The government wishes to make tobacco consumption an expensive undertaking through regular increases in customs and excise duties and levies. Control of contraband tobacco by our customs and excise department, as well as the Ministry of Health and Social Services should go through our borders,” Muinjangue stated.
According to official statistics, in Namibia, it is estimated that tobacco consumption among adults, aged 15-49, is 20.1% for men, while for women, it stands at 5.1%.
Meanwhile, among those aged between 13 and 15, 31.1% use tobacco products, of which 31% are boys and 29.9% are girls.
“Second-hand smoke exposure in Namibia among youth (13-15) is at 49.9%, where exposure is in public places and 38.1% are exposed at home. Overall, every year, there are over 1 000 smoking-related deaths, even though fewer men and women die on average in Namibia, while in other middle-income countries, about 13 men and six women die from smoking-related causes weekly,’’ she said.
Muinjangue then stressed that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death nationally, regionally and globally.
“The present and future generations of the Namibian nation must be urgently protected from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure.
“Significant reduction in tobacco use will ensure declines in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and promote healthier lifestyles,” the staunch anti-tobacco activist said.
She continued: “Studies have shown that in some low- to middle-income countries, there has been a growing use of tobacco due to limited capacity to impose comprehensive tobacco control legislations. [But] Namibia has made tremendous progress on tobacco control.
“However, intensification can be encouraged through a strengthened and empowered health workforce within the Ministry of Health and Social Services, supported by our development cooperation partners,” she continued.
The training is sponsored by WHO.
“We were very delighted when the ministry of health communicated to us through our Namibian office and the request was forwarded to us; we were very excited because Namibia has been doing tobacco control silently,’’ said Dr William Maina, the technical coordinator for tobacco control at WHO’s regional office for Africa.
“We do many things and amongst them is to build capacity for the government and particularly ministries of health to actually address tobacco control in a comprehensive manner to ensure the implementation of tobacco control interventions is fully in compliance with the articles of the WHO FCTC,” he said.
Maynard stressed that as WHO, they do not only work with the ministry of health, but also with the ministry of finance, as they want to ensure that tobacco taxation is also prioritised “because it’s a clear fact that tax and price measures are also effective interventions for tobacco control”.
“The WHO aim is to make sure that populations are healthy,’’ he said.
Caption: Deadly… Ben Nangombe, Dr William Maina, Esther Muinjangue and Woyita Kapumburu, pictured with participants.
Photo: John Muyamba