By DARLINGTON MWENDABAI
TOBACCO Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZ) has urged Government to speed up the introduction of a law on tobacco control.
The proposed Act will ban advertising, promotion and sponsorship of harmful tobacco in Zambia.
TOFAZ executive director Brenda Chitindi said Government should intensify actions against the tobacco industry by enacting a tobacco control Act to protect Zambians against tobacco which has over 4,000 harmful chemicals.
Ms Chitindi said in an interview in Lusaka on Friday that the Ministry of Health has been working on the Tobacco Control Act for more than two years and â€œnow is the time to act.â€
â€œThe Ministry of Health is now seriously considering intensifying action against the tobacco industry and a speedy enactment of a comprehensive tobacco control Act to protect Zambian citizens against the harms of tobacco use,â€ she said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills six million people each year, hence the need for governments to ban advertising, promotion and sponsorship of harmful tobacco.
Zambia is a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.
Ms Chitindi said Government should also consider increasing tobacco taxes and creating a national co-ordinating mechanism for tobacco control as well as implementing 100 percent smoke-free laws to discourage the cultivation of the crop.
She said the recent WHO framework convention on tobacco control indicated that 75 percent of farmers in Zambia are interested in cultivating alternative crops if the change is supported.
She said Zambian tobacco companies and leaf buyers are exploiting farmers, adding that the use of child labour was prevalent in major growing areas like Eastern Province.
Ms Chitindi said the majority of the profits from tobacco farming go to leaf-buying companies and cigarette manufactures, while many farmers and workers remain poor, in debt and bad poor health.
She said tobacco companies often entice farmers to produce tobacco by offering farming loans and guaranteed buyers.
She said, however, that low tobacco prices set by the tobacco industry, often trap farmers in a vicious cycle of poverty and indebtedness.
â€œThe tobacco industry claims that it is protecting livelihoods of farmers, but its exploitative buying practices in countries globally, including Zambia, lock farmers and farm workers into cycles of poverty, increase food insecurity and need for child labour,â€ she said.
By DARLINGTON MWENDABAI