By Elezo Libanda
Katima Mulilo, Sept. 7 -– A number of Namibians have urged the government to implement the Tobacco Products Control Act of 2010 which outlawed smoking in public places.
The law came into effect on 13 April 2014. Smoking in public places was banned and health warning signs were to be displayed at all tobacco selling points and tobacco is not to be sold to persons under the age of 18.
People selling tobacco were allowed a grace period of three months to put their houses in order.
Minister Richard Kamwi warned at the time that the Ministry of Health and Social Services alone would not succeed if other stakeholders and law enforcement agencies were not involved in the implementation of the Tobacco Products Act.
Several years down the line Namibians are still calling for the implementation of this law as thousands if not millions of people are exposed to health risks associated with second-hand smoke.
Bester Matongo of Katima Mulilo said despite the law being gazetted in 2014, nothing more has been done to implement it.
“It’s worse in shopping malls where people smoke as they please without considering the health of the next person close to them. The only public place where people are safe from second-hand smoke is in banking institutions as security guards always ask without fear or favour people to go outside if they want to smoke,” he said.
He said in other places people go there at their own risk, even in government hospitals and police stations.
“The police and the ministry of health are custodians of this Act, but you find them doing the opposite. The minister of health must have appointed inspectors to enforce the tobacco law, but it’s 10 years down the line and nothing has happened,” Matongo added.
According to medical experts, smoking is responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer, 70 percent of chronic respiratory illness and 25 percent of heart diseases.
Some people argue that the money spent on tobacco products can be better spent on essentials such as food, shelter and education.
The control of the sale of tobacco products is not just a public health priority but a key development issue.
There have been reports that even children in schools smoke due to peer pressure and other factors, and the risks involved are catastrophic.
According to the World Health Organization tobacco kills over 6 million people every year globally, and more than 10 percent are non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke.