The Centre for Trade Policy and Development has commended the government particularly the Ministry of Health for its zero-tolerance on tobacco consumption particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst updating the nation on the progression of COVID-19 at a recent press briefing, the Minister of Health recently shed light on the dangers of tobacco consumption and the added risk that it presents in so far as prevention and treatment of COVID-19 IS concerned.
The Minister of Health discouraged Zambians from smoking and exposing themselves to tobacco smoking.
Tobacco related illnesses such as heart and respiratory diseases, account for more than 7000 deaths in Zambia annually at a cost to the economy of approximately K2.8 billion, according to the Ministry of Health’s Investment Case for Tobacco Control in Zambia.
A study conducted at Harvard University and published in the Tobacco Disease Journal, also revealed that smokers are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and can suffer complications such as Pneumonia should they contract COVID-19 than non-smokers.
The tally of COVID-19 infections in Zambia now stands at 39 with 7 recoveries and 1 death. Although no new infections have been reported in 5 days, however this does not mean that the further spread has been eliminated.
CTPD Researcher Chileshe Mange said the public must remain vigilant and continue to implement social distancing and self-quarantine measures.
Ms Mange has also urged the government to enhance enforcement of existing legislation which prohibits smoking in public places such as the Public Health Regulations, Statutory Instrument number 163 of 1992 and the Local Government Prohibition of Smoking in Public Place) Regulations Statutory Instrument number No. 39 of 2008.
She said these regulations prohibit smoking in all public places including smoking in hospitals, health centers and public transport.
Ms Mange said in addition, the burden that COVID-19 has placed on the public health system and the inter linkages between the disease and tobacco consumption provide a further impetus for Parliament to pass the Tobacco Products and Nicotine Products Control Bill as soon as practicable in order to enhance and harmonize tobacco control efforts.
She has also recommended that the government accelerate Zambia’s accession to the Protocol on the Elimination of the Illicit Trade on Tobacco Products which is the first protocol developed as a result of the World Health Organization Framework Convention On Tobacco Control.
Ms Mange said the essence of the ITP is to reduce all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products such as production of counterfeit and contraband, tax evasion and smuggling.
She said approximately 30 percent of the tobacco products such as cigarettes in Zambia enter the market illegally which increases access of cigarettes to the public and contributes to increased consumption, especially among youths and adolescents.
Ms Mange said the accession of the country to the ITP will provide a legal basis to implement stricter tobacco trade and control measures.