June 15. 2010 - Namibia Health and Social Services Minister Richard Kamwi hinted at a new law during the commemoration of ‘World No Tobacco Day’ in Gobabis on Monday, May 31st. The new law would essentially prohibit sponsorship of any Namibian event, however charitable, by tobacco companies or distributors of tobacco products.
According to a 2008 World Health Organization survey Namibia was the leader in Southern Africa with a startling 36 percent of men smoking - 29 percent on a daily basis. (Smoking in Africa, VOAnews.com, 11/302009)Kamwi said smoking among the young, especially women, is going up, hence the urgency to curb demand for tobacco in the country. Once in force, the Tobacco Products Control Act No 1 of 2010 will black out marketing and promotion of tobacco products in the country, and restrict tobacco vending machines to restricted areas with an 18-year age limit. “Plans are underway to invite all [concerned] to inform them on how we will enforce this law, including not smoking in public places,” Kamwi said.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba has signed the Tobacco Product Control Act, thus paving the way for its enforcement. The National Assembly adopted the Tobacco Products Control Bill with one amendment on Thursday, October 8th.
This puts a total blackout on advertising, promotion and any public relations activities around tobacco products or companies whose names are directly associated with tobacco products. In addition, the Act also prohibits tobacco companies and distributors of tobacco products from sponsoring an event in Namibia to ostensibly promote tobacco brands through such events.
Figures from the Ministry of Health and Social Services single out two specific regions, Omaheke and Hardap, as having the highest average number of women smokers. In Hardap, the average is 24 percent, which the health ministry says “tops the list of women smokers countrywide”. Interestingly, that average percentage also exceeds the estimated number of women smokers worldwide, at 20 percent of the total number of smokers. In Omaheke, women smokers are estimated at 5 percent. “The number could increase as the [tobacco] industry sees opportunities for business, especially among women and the youth,” warns the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
The Act also mandates the establishment of a fund from levies on sales of tobacco and other sources. The fund would partly use the money to pay for treatment of tobacco-related illnesses. The Act aligns the Namibian health system with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Attempts to get comment from various tobacco companies in Namibia on the future effect of the Act were futile.
This year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) commemorated World No Tobacco Day under the theme “Gender and Tobacco, with emphasis on marketing tobacco to women”.
Today young people, especially young women, are the target of tobacco companies, and the health ministry wants all Namibian women to “adopt healthy lifestyles free of tobacco smoking and alcohol”, Kamwi said.
References: Government tightens screws on smoking by Desie Heita, NewEra.com.na, 6/3/2010; Namibia: Smoking Habits a Growing Concern, Alvine Kapitako,
NewEra.com.na, 6/1/2010; Namibia must demarket tobacco by Rosalia Ndafuda,
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Republic of Namibia signed (29 January 2004) and ratified (7 November 2005) the
WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty.