Top Harare health and World Health Organization officials say Zimbabwe should introduce high taxes on tobacco products to discourage thousands of young people from accessing toxic substances, which cause preventable diseases.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark World Tobacco Day and the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Harare, Deputy Health Minister Dr. Paul Chimedza, said introducing high taxes will reduce demand for tobacco products in Zimbabwe and worldwide.
Dr. Chimedza said high tobacco taxes are an income spinner for the government while at the same time, saving millions of people from death due to the devastating effects of cigarettes and related products.
His views were echoed by Dr. David Okello, the WHO’s Harare representative, who said tobacco use among young people was on the increase in most countries, including Zimbabwe.
According to Dr. Okello, tobacco industries are targeting young people, who end up being addicted to these products. He said high taxation of tobacco products results in reduced numbers of smokers.
Dr. Okello also noted that the tobacco industry is expected to fight back demands for high taxation of tobacco products.
Tobacco kills at least 8 million people annually, with 600,000 of the deaths linked to passive smoking. Dr. Chimedza said most of the diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, cancer and several others linked to tobacco products, are preventable.
He further said drug abuse had become a problem worldwide as 200 million people use drugs. He cited an example of a Zimbabwean graduate, who has been locked up in India after unknowingly getting involved in drug trafficking.
Addressing the same gathering, Presidential Health Advisor, Dr. Timothy Stamps, said most Zimbabwean youths are taking dangerous drugs and alcoholic beverages like ZED, an imported spirit.
Dr. Stamps noted that some Zimbabweans are now drinking potent beer and related spirits, which he said can lead to death.
He expressed concern that even cough medicines were full of alcohol, and hence not fit for children. These officials argued that the use of tobacco products and hard drugs are directly linked as abusers interchange them for self-gratification.
World Tobacco day is normally celebrated on May 31 and the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June.