WINDHOEK –The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the country’s gradual increase in tax on tobacco products annually is commendable as this has been proven to be a key deterrent for young people to start smoking, due to high prices.
Finance Minister Calle Schlettwein announced during this year’s tabling of the budget that sin tax on alcohol and tobacco products for national revenue would increase by five percent.
According to the World Health Organisation’s Noncommunicable Disease Country Profile, Namibia has a high prevalence of tobacco smoking, with an average of 20 percent for both men and women.
Tobacco smoking prevalence for men is at 30 percent while it is at nine percent for women, according to the same report. Tobacco use in Namibia includes smoking, snuff, chewing and other forms of use. Further, tobacco smoking in Namibia starts at an early age, with 23.9 percent of learners between 13-14 years reporting that they had tried to smoke a cigarette, the report highlights.
“Considering the determined steps taken by the country in the past 12 years, I am confident that Namibia will continue to enforce the tobacco control measures strictly in the interest of protecting its population from adverse effects of tobacco use,” said Celia Kaunatjike, the health promotion officer at the WHO office in Windhoek.
Speaking at the observance of World No Tobacco Day, Kaunatjike, who spoke on behalf of the WHO country representative, Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, said there are challenges in assessing the extent of compliance to and enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act and its regulations.
However, overall, the country has attempted to implement some of the global best buys in regard to tobacco control.
Additionally, Namibia has banned tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
Namibia enacted the Tobacco Control Act in 2010 and realised its regulations in March 2014.
“Namibia is one of a few countries in Africa implementing the graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging,” said Kaunatjike. World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on May 31. It is intended to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption around the globe. This year’s theme was ‘Tobacco and heart disease’. Furthermore, World No Tobacco Day is a chance for governments and the public to take firm action, said Kaunatjike. This is because many people are unaware that tobacco is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke, said Kaunatjike.
“Policies that regulate, promote smoke-free environments and encourage people to quit smoking will contribute to improving the health and well-being of all people,” added Kaunatjike.
According to WHO, more than seven million people worldwide die each year because of tobacco smoke and from this number, 800,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.
“If no action is taken, tobacco will kill more than eight million people every year by 2030, more than 80 percent of them among people living in low and middle-income countries,” warned Kaunatjike who spoke at Eenhana where the official commemoration took place last week.