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Tobacco industry misinformation killing people

SIMON MWANZA writes

GROSS misinformation by the tobacco industry has continued to undermine efforts to protect public health in many African countries, Tobacco Free Association of Zambia executive director Brenda Chitindi has said.

Ms Chitindi has since warned that Zambia should not let the same problem play out in the country.

“We must not let the same problems play out in Zambia. All government actors must take quick action to protect the Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill from tobacco industry interference.

In a statement, Ms Chitindi noted that tobacco control in many African countries was repeatedly hindered by tobacco industry interferences.

In Kenya and Namibia, it took over 13 years for their tobacco control bills to be approved by Parliament, with delays largely attributed to tobacco industry interference.

 In Nigeria and Uganda, British American Tobacco (BAT) was extremely active in opposing tobacco control legislation with well documented evidence of their interference in the parliamentary process of tabling their tobacco control bills.

 Ms Chitindi however said that evidence of substantial health and economic benefits of tobacco control was already available in the Ministry of Health’s Investment Case for Tobacco Control in Zambia which found:

  • Each year, tobacco costs the Zambian economy K2.8 billion (1.2% of GDP) and kills 7,142 Zambians
  • If Zambia fully implements and enforces the tobacco control bill, the country can save K12.4 billion and the Government will be responsible for saving 40,349 lives over 15 years

Despite the obvious economic and health benefits, several criticisms and arguments against elements of the Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill have emerged.

Ms Chitindi who also runs the Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products (STOP) Rapid Engaged Action Team said Many of these criticisms and arguments are the same tactics and arguments historically used by tobacco companies against tobacco control legislation across the world.

 In this policy brief we present these common arguments and fact-check them against the evidence base.

“Tobacco companies continue to promote their lethal product and attempt to circumvent or prevent development and implementation of effective tobacco control policies in Zambia.

“We kindly encourage Government Line Ministries including Finance, Commerce and Trade, Agriculture, Labour, Health, Local Government and other to review the evidence-based information we have collated. The tobacco industry spreads misinformation and we have addressed their myths,” she said

Ultimately, all must remember that smoking kills half of all life-long users and the tobacco control policies outlined in the Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill would save Zambian lives.

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