Zimbabwe is planning to introduce a law that would prohibit public smoking, a move that has received mixed reactions in the country.
The proposed parliamentary bill would compel those found guilty of smoking in public to pay a fine of $500 or alternatively spend six months in jail.
But some habitual smokers like Fibion Munhuwa have vowed not to stop smoking despite the proposed harsh penalties.
On the other hand, Harare resident, Nigel Gwekwerere, said the government’s plans are welcome, arguing that most people are affected by passive smoking, especially children and pregnant women.
Gwekwerere’s sentiments were echoed by Kuwadzana resident, Malvern Samhembere, who said smoking has no nutritional value.
Greendale resident, Gladys Runyowa, concurred, adding that people who do not smoke suffer the most when smokers are allowed to blow their pipes in public.
Budiriro resident, Clayton Ndlela, noted that Zimbabwe would lose a lot of money through tobacco sales if public smoking was banned.
Ndlela said the law will reduce the uptake of tobacco thereby drastically affecting revenue collection in the country.
Non-smoker, Albert Chidhakwa, said the government’s plans showed that authorities are now diverting people's attention to avoid scrutiny in areas where it has failed, in particular running the economy.
Chidakwa said the proposed fine is too high, especially at a time when most people in the country are earning salaries that are below the poverty datum line, pegged by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions or ZCTU at $584 for a family of six living in an urban area.
Chidhakwa’s sentiments were echoed by Tichaona Murandu, who lives in Harare’s Hatcliffe high density suburb.
Murandu said the proposed fines are a clear attempt by the cash-strapped government to fleece Zimbabweans of their hard-earned money.
Faith Musarurwa, who contested the Muzarabani parliamentary seat under an MDC-T ticket, said authorities should first introduce smoking zones before implementing its proposed plan to criminalize public smoking.
Cigarette manufacturers have been warning tobacco consumers that smoking may be hazardous to health but the warning has not been heeded by many in the tobacco-producing country.
The Health Ministry’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse deputy, Dorcas Sithole, told the Sunday Mail newspaper that Zimbabwe became an affiliate member of the World Health Organization on Tobacco Control and some of the prerequisites include aligning tobacco control policies with international regulations.
Under the proposed National Alcohol Control Policy Bill that is set to be presented before parliament, the law would also regulate how much alcohol an individual should consume in public bars.