The UPND has revealed its commitment to enacting the long-awaited Tobacco Control Bill, stating that it will soon be presented to parliament for consideration. Minister of Information and Media, Cornelius Mweetwa, addressed stakeholders during the 2023 Zambia Media Network Against Tobacco (ZAMNAT) Media Awards ceremony held at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
Mr. Mweetwa, also the Chief Government Spokesperson, acknowledged the concerns and anxiety among stakeholders regarding the delay in enacting the tobacco control bill. Despite Zambia ratifying the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco (FCTC) 15 years ago, successive administrations had not domesticated the WHO-FCTC.
“I am pleased to inform you that the new dawn government has made unprecedented tangible headway in enacting a tobacco control law and will, in the very near future, present the tobacco control bill to parliament for enactment,” Mr. Mweetwa declared.
Expressing gratitude to the media and various stakeholders for their continued efforts in promoting a tobacco and nicotine-free nation, Mr. Mweetwa emphasized the importance of media innovation in reinforcing information on the dangers of tobacco and nicotine consumption.
“There is, therefore, a need for innovative ways to reinforce information about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine consumption, as well as the crucial measures that need to be taken to prevent, treat, and combat it. To keep the topic of tobacco control fresh, I encourage the media in their diversity to engage in creative in-depth journalistic pieces that will cover, educate, and stimulate public discourse,” he urged.
Lusaka Province Permanent Secretary, Robert Kamalata, echoed the sentiment, urging the media to familiarize itself with the government’s procedures for accessing relevant information. Kamalata stressed the importance of engaging the appropriate authorities to obtain accurate and timely information.
Addressing the gathering, ZAMNAT Chairperson Paxina Phiri called on the government to collaborate with civil society organizations to implement the mandate of the WHO-FCTC. She emphasized the need to protect and educate citizens about the dangers of tobacco and nicotine substances.
During a panel discussion, ZAMNAT Patron and Director, Professor Faston Goma, urged the media to intensify awareness efforts around the dangers of tobacco and other substances. He encouraged journalists to play a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and fostering a healthier society.
The awards ceremony recognized journalists from both public and private media for their outstanding efforts in raising awareness about the effects of tobacco, with various prizes awarded to the deserving recipients. The event concluded with a renewed sense of commitment from all stakeholders towards achieving a tobacco-free Zambia.