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ZFTCT endorses WHO framework on tobacco control

Of late the Zimbabwe Framework for Tobacco Control Trust [ZFTCT] has read in some media the cold sentiments the local tobacco industry has on the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC].

By Tawona Zvongouya

ZFTCT agrees and supports the WHO FCTC bid to control tobacco consumption in whatever form.

As a civic society organisation, ZFTCT has carefully studied the WHO FCTC information on tobacco.

Our study has assisted us to read between the lines and see that for many years the WHO as a United Nations body mandated with the responsibility of ensuring that the health of people globally is safeguarded, finally came to the conclusion that present and future generations have to be protected from the catastrophic health, social, environmental and economic effects of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Indeed, tobacco is poison. Tobacco smoke is made up of about 300 different chemicals, 40 of which are known poisons. When someone smokes a cigarette, these chemicals go into his/her body through the mouth and the air passage.

Do you know that on average, each cigarette a person smokes shortens his/her life by 5½ minutes? It takes 10 years for one’s body to shake off the effects of smoking. Smoking can contribute to many illnesses and diseases.

A few examples are otlined below.

1.Bronchitis – Coughing makes the air passages sore. They start to swell and produce phlegm. The smoker finds it difficult to breathe and may start to wheeze. Smoking causes 75% of deaths from chronic bronchitis.

2.Emphysema – Coughing and bronchitis may cause the small air sacs in the lungs to break down. This means that the lungs cannot take in as much oxygen or get rid of as much carbon dioxide. Somebody with this disease can find it difficult to climb up two stairs without having a rest.

3.Heart Disease – The nicotine in cigarette smoke makes the smoker’s heart work faster than it should. This means that a smoker’s heart is likely to wear out faster than a non-smoker’s heart. Smoking causes 25 %of deaths from heart disease.

4.Cancer – 90 % of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking. A cancer is an abnormal growth. The substances that cause cancer from smoking are contained in the tobacco tar which one inhales.

Tobacco smoking can also contribute to the following:
1.Hardening of the blood vessels, blood clots, stomach ulcers.

2. It can cause problems with pregnancy. Since the baby is linked to its mother through her blood stream, any bad things in her blood are passed to the baby. A pregnant woman who smokes puts her baby’s health at risk. Her baby may be underdeveloped and underweight. The baby could even be dead.

3. Smoking can make the body’s defence system weak. A smoker is more likely to get flu, colds, pneumonia etc.

Current statistics are that 5 – 6 million people a year die from a tobacco-related diseases. If the trend continues, 10 million people will die each year by the year 2030, with the majority of these deaths happening in developing countries.

If urgent action is not taken, tobacco will soon become the leading cause of death worldwide, causing more deaths than tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases and the complications of childbirth for that year combined.

Now, one can see why the WHO is duly worried, hence the FCTC. It is why the ZFTCT believes that the WHO FCTC should be applauded and supported for its huge efforts towards ensuring that the health of people globally is protected. Zimbabwe must not squeak or whinge.

People must not just think of making money at the expense of health.

We know that it is good to drive latest model vehicles and buy whatever after selling tobacco; but what is the actual result on the ground in terms of health?

ZFTCT would like concerned parties in Zimbabwe to always bear in mind that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [WHO FCTC] is a treaty adopted by the 56th World Health Assembly on 21 May 2003.

It became the first World Health Organisation treaty adopted under article 19 of the WHO constitution. The treaty came into force on 27 February 2005. It has been signed by 168 countries and is legally binding on 176 ratifying/accessioned countries.

The ZFTCT wants the tobacco industry in Zimbabwe to know that 176 is not a small number because not every country in the world grows and exports/sells tobacco for a livelihood.

One must carefully read again the number of countries that have signed and ratified the treaty. What we want as the ZFTCT is for the Zimbabwe Government to sign and ratify the WHO treaty without further delay.

We also want the Zimbabwe Government to discourage new farmers from taking tobacco as their core business. This is detrimental for the economy in the long run considering the foregoing.

The Zimbabwe Government might not be advised correctly by people who see money in tobacco only and nowhere else. Today’s world is different from that of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

Things are changing by the day. If the tobacco industry of yesteryear used to make money from selling the crop without much noise being made about its calamitous effects, today’s world wants tobacco controlled.

It is in that regard that Zimbabwe must take the WHO FCTC seriously. Our fear is that if the Zimbabwe Government is not properly advised and guided, the country will one day find itself not knowing what to do with millions of kilogrammes of tobacco at its auction floors after the world would have voted at the United Nations Assembly that tobacco should not be sold anywhere.

It is only a matter of time before they vote. Just read again the number of countries that have signed and ratified the WHO FCTC.

What we want as a civic society organisation is for Zimbabwe to wake up and smell the coffee by starting to gradually shift from tobacco as its key money maker to other crops that provide food on the table for both children and adults, thereby always being assured of the good health of the nation and stability of the economy. It is NOT impossible to gradually shift.

People do not eat smoke. Even after selling tobacco the farmer looks for food to eat. The Zimbabwe Government must deliberately put good money on wheat and maize.

There is no special crop that can replace tobacco except food crops that can stop food imports. Right now the farmer has done away with the growing of wheat and maize on a huge scale because the selling price, as has always been indicated by the farmer, is not good. As a trust we are quite pained to read that Zimbabwe is importing maize from Zambia.

At the moment bread is selling in Zimbabwe for one US dollar per loaf. Reasons given by the Bakers Association of Zimbabwe for charging that are justified as far as we are concerned and yet bread should not be selling for one dollar. Zimbabwe cannot pride itself in producing many kilogrammes of tobacco that is dangerous to health at the expense of wheat, maize, potatoes and soya beans enjoyed by children and adults.

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