By Chris Zumani Zimba
It was another hot and not rainy day on 27th February 2019 in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city and everything looked as normal daily business. But guests and participants at Lusaka Intercontinental hotel attending the handover ceremony for “the FCTC Investment Case for Zambia” on the same day were graced with breath-taking public health facts on how many Zambians die annually as a result of direct and indirect tobacco smoke besides what the country is losing in GDP terms on healthcare expenditures, workplace and premature mortality costs as a result of what the tobacco industry sugar coat as the “Copper Leaf” while some tobacco control campaigners and public health practitioners call it the “Harmful Evil Leaf of Death”.
Yes, scientific facts don’t lie as it is humanly immoral for us to paint ‘deadly poison’ as ‘health sweets’ when tobacco is convincingly and empirically the “Harmful Evil Leaf of Death” as we shall see below in the findings by the Zambia Ministry of Health (MOH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) New York Office, WHO FCTC Secretariat and RTI International.
- Health, Economic, Social and Environmental Harm and Costs of Tobacco
Speaking at the High Level Handover Ceremony for “the FCTC Investment Case for Zambia” with a packed audience drawn from Line Ministries, State Agencies, Government Departments, Academic Institutions, Professional Associations, Civil Society Organizations, media, donors and the United Nations Country Offices, key speakers and representatives from the Ministry of Health (MOH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) New York Office, WHO FCTC Secretariat and RTI International made the following revelations among other findings:
- Zambia’s poorest and least educated people are most likely to consume tobacco with the leaf smoke killing 7,142 Zambians yearly of which 60% of annual tobacco related deaths are coming from energetic individuals under the age of 70years while 800 of these deaths are due to second hand smokers1;
- Every year, tobacco costs the Zambian economy K2.8 Billion, an equivalent of 1.2% of the country’s GDP. These costs include K154 Million in healthcare expenditures, K2.7 billion in lost productivity capacities due to premature mortality, disability and workplace smoking1;
- Tobacco cultivation yields poor returns to labour, can cause dependency and enslaved debt, is hazardous to farmers’ health, and can contribute to food insecurity and environmental destruction1;
- Tobacco farming spreads untaxed and cheap loose-leaf tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes, which decreases the effectiveness of tobacco control measures, including tax1;
- Tobacco kills 50% of its long term users i.e. tobacco users die prematurely by halving their lifespan2;
- Annually, tobacco kills more than 7 million people worldwide and 80% live in developing countries2;
- More than 6 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers, second-hand smoking1;
- Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development3; and
- The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced4.
- The Investment Case for Tobacco Control in Zambia
And if the above health and economic costs are to be addressed as well as score significant economic gains against tobacco in Zambia, the Ministry of Health revealed that it has carefully selected six (6) priority FCTC demand reduction measures to be implemented in the next 15 years i.e. (2018-2033). These six (6) FCTC policies to be prioritized in the “Investment Case for Tobacco Control in Zambia” are:
- Increase tobacco taxation to reduce the affordability of tobacco products (FCTC Article 6);
- Enforce bans on smoking in all public places to protect people from tobacco smoke (FCTC Article 8);
- Mandate that all tobacco products carry health warnings that cover 50% of the packaging (FCTC Article 11);
- Implement plain packaging (FCTC Article 11: Guidelines for Implementation);
- Institute mass media campaigns against tobacco use (FCTC Article 12); and
- Implement and enforce a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion (FCTC Article 13)1.
- Benefits of Investing in FCTC Tobacco Control in Zambia
Consequently, Ministry of Health (MOH), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) New York Office, WHO FCTC Secretariat and RTI International disclosed that if Zambia fully implemented and enforced the six (6) priority FCTC policy measures between 5 to 15 years, the country stands to benefits the following health and economic gains:
- The country can save K12.4 billion, thereby spurring huge economic growth and national development;
- K685 Million will be averted in healthcare expenditures over 15 years with K329 Million saved in government healthcare and K188 Million saved in out-of-pocket health care costs; and
- Government will directly prevent and save 40,349 Zambian lives1.
Therefore, it is clear that the benefits of investing in comprehensive tobacco control measures as prescribed in the WHO FCTC are huge, immeasurable and enormous for Zambia. The WHO FCTC Investment Case for Zambia speaks to these evidential facts.
- Conclusion: A call to stand up to act against Tobacco/Public Smoking in Zambia
As a Zambian and citizen, you obliged by the Republican Constitution to help prevent or save lives that are being lost due to tobacco: share this information with your friends, media houses, local councilor, MP, chief, NGO or religious leaders in your area and ask them to support domestication of the WHO FCTC through the “Tobacco Products and Nicotine Products Bill”, a multsectoral proposed legislation for Zambia and Zambians in domesticating the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The FCTC is the first treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO which was designed to address and eradicate the growing public health challenge of the globalization of the tobacco epidemic4. The Convention entered into force on 27 February 2005 – exactly 90 days after it was acceded to, ratified or approved by 40 States. Zambia ratified the WHO FCTC on August 21st, 2008. Consequently, Zambia being a Party of this global health treaty that has been ratified by 180 countries by 2017, the SADC state is obligated to implement comprehensive tobacco control laws and regulations in order to reduce and control the threat of a tobacco epidemic, such as use of large pictorial health warnings, bans on smoking in public places and tobacco advertising or increases in tobacco taxes and prices among many regulations measures.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles on African politics and public health. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS) outside his usual commitments. Chriszumanizimba.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; +260 973 153 815
- Ministry of Health, WHO and UNDP, (2019:1-2), “Investment Case for Tobacco Control in Zambia”, a Paper Presentation at Intercontinental Hotel, 27th February, 2019, Lusaka, Zambia
- Drug Free (2018:1), “WHO Report Smoking and drinking cause of millions of death worldwide”, accessed from https://drugfree.org/learn/drug-and-alcohol-news/who-report-smoking-and-drinking-cause-millions-of-deaths-worldwide/ , Retrieved on 10/01/2018;
- National Center for Biotechnology Information (2017:1) “Tobacco Control and Tobacco Farming in African Countries”, accessed from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4412848/, Retrieved 12/11/2018
- WHO (2018:1)“Tobacco-Key Facts” accessed from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/tobacco retrieved 02/12/2018