HARARE – Zimbabwe should start seriously considering banning smoking in public places, a local health expert has said.
Nemashe Maware, a local medical expert, said there must be a clear message from the government and the corporate world on how this ban should be implemented.
“People continue to light (cigarettes) in public places putting those around them at risk and the trend worldwide is the promotion of banning smoking in public places,” he said.
“Implementing a ban becomes difficult with Zimbabwe as a tobacco country with tobacco being the biggest export for many years. Events on the agricultural front had reversed the trend but there has been a marked growth in recent years and tobacco will soon claim its place as the top export.”
Maware said any talk of controlling smoking should not be a taboo subject.
“We need to have smoke-free buildings to truly protect other peoples’ health from hazards of smokers,” he said.
Maware said the proposal creates a catch-22 situation.
“The ban in public places also affects businesses that are bound to lose their smoking customers,” he said. “At corporate level, we are dealing with a catastrophe as we have big farms growing the crop.
“There will be job losses we are told, the economy will shrink they cry, we are not ready for that First World nonsense the politician will plead. However are we prepared to risk our citizens’ health to ill health of heart disease, lung cancer and Sids just to satisfy this greed? We have to start thinking outside the box. The same soils can still grow other harmless crops.”
Mawere said in Zimbabwe authorities would rather deal with the symptoms than address the cause of ill health of patients.
“The idea of taking halfway measures to restrict smoking in a few areas as we advocate in Zimbabwe is not ideal,” he said.
“A serious look at a wholesale tobacco ban should be considered and implemented as soon as possible, starting at the top by actively participating in the World No Tobacco Day with the same zeal we approach the World Aids Day, the Breast-feeding Week and all the other health days commemorated in Zimbabwe.
“As a country we must formulate policies which discourage growing of tobacco as the panacea to our economic problems.”
He commended the sporting fraternity for banning smoke advertising and sponsorship of sport by tobacco companies.
“In Zimbabwe it is business as usual as tobacco companies still play a role in the poverty ridden sport of soccer,” Mawere said.
“The violation of standards set by the rest of the progressive world should be stopped.”
Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (Timb) says Zimbabwe should be actively involved in the dialogue around banning tobacco to protect its economic interests.
“We must be involved in the dialogue and defend our position to say it is a livelihood in Zimbabwe and that we have no alternative crop that is as well-paying as tobacco,” Timb board chairman Monica Chinamasa said.
Former Health minister Timothy Stamps successfully imposed a limited ban on smoking in some public places like public transport.
According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao), tobacco is important to Zimbabwe’s agriculture and the national economy.