Create smoke-free zones, Government urged

Paidamoyo Chipunza, Zimbabwe 
(First published in The Herald, Zimbabwe on 8 August 2013): GOVERNMENT has been urged to create 100 percent smoke-free environments to help reduce the risk of contracting cancer. The calls come amid chilling revelations that more than 4 000 chemicals are found in tobacco smoke, from which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 known to cause cancer. Ministry of Health and Child Welfare deputy director for the department of mental health and drug abuse Mrs Dorcas Sithole said while current laws forbid anyone to smoke in public spaces such as in buses, commuter omnibuses, airlines, halls, schools and public offices, people still do so.

Mrs Sithole said this was in accordance with Statutory Instrument 264 of 2002 of the Public Health Act on tobacco control. However, despite the existence of the law, smoking in public spaces that includes at bus terminuses and along streets is the order of the day in Harare.

“This trend becomes more pronounced as one walks down town where a large concentration of people is. Sometimes, streets become even impassable for a non smoker because of the smoke emissions,” said Mr Richard Mandandawa of Harare.

Mr Mandandawa’s observations are common at taxi ranks such as Copacabana and market square. According to health experts, passive smoking is as deadly as actual smoking. The World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control states that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

“Creating 100 percent smoke-free environments is the only way to protect people from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke,” reads part of the framework. Health experts argue that a typical burning cigarette smoulders 90 percent of the time, generating air pollution that people nearby are forced to breathe. Furthermore, smoke from one cigarette lingers in a room for up to two and a half hours even with a window open.

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) 2006, 12 percent of Zimbabweans, the majority being males, smoke. “By creating smoke-free environments, Government will be protecting its citizens from air pollution partly caused by the one in five men who smoke cigarettes countrywide (ZDHS 2010-11),” said another expert.

The Zimbabwe Global Youth Tobacco Survey (2008) further notes that at least one in 10 students uses any tobacco products and 3,2 percent smoke cigarettes. Second hand smoke exposure accounts for one in five students who live in homes where others smoke and two in five are exposed to smoke outside their homes. According to WHO, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world.

Paidamoyo Chipunza, Zimbabwe 
Citizen News Service - CNS
August 2013
(First published in The Herald, Zimbabwe on 8 August 2013)

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