Zimbabwe last year earned $773 million though tobacco sales, which were largely, consumed by China, but at home the country in battling the health effects of the finished product smoked daily by thousands of Zimbabweans.
According to the Daily News, the British American Tobacco Zimbabwe and Savanna Tobacco in 2014 produced some 3 billion cigarette products, meaning statistically that Zimbabweans smoke roughly 10 million cigarettes per day.
Former Health Minister, Dr. Henry Madzorera, who is now a private medical doctor said despite challenges of tobacco smoking, Africa is the next frontier for tobacco companies.
He said health officials are worried and sounded a warning that Africa is looked at as the next big market in terms of growth for the tobacco industry.
“We were hoping that we would be passing legislation that decreases the ability of the tobacco industry to advertise, like they have done in other countries, where advertising of tobacco products in the public media like television, newspapers is prohibited,” said Madzorera.
The health effects of smoking are far reaching, and according to health professionals, smoking can affect nearly all parts of the human body. Some of the commonly known diseases associated with tobacco smoking are cancers of the throat and lungs.
Smoking can also increase chances of a heart disease, strokes, blindness, loss of limbs, diabetes and even high blood pressure, which has led to health professionals calling for Zimbabweans to quit smoking in order to improve and guard their health.
Although Zimbabwe does not have law banning the advertising of these products under the Public Health Act (Tobacco Control) Regulation 264 of 2002 public smoking is prohibited. Areas like public halls and public transport are off limits in an effort to ward off cases of secondhand or passive smoking.
Madzorera says enforcement of these laws and public awareness has been an issue.
“Passive smoking is a real hazard, if you are a passive smoker you are just as good as an active smoker. You are smoking secondhand smoke and you are being forced to smoke, this is a big problem particularly in the homes.”
Tobacco farming has become a cash crop for many small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe, as economic woes have continued to persist in the country. And with the opening of the recent tobacco auction season earlier this year disrupted by protesting farmers on low prices, there hasn’t been much said on the health risks of tobacco farming.
Madzorera says the tobacco farmer faces similar risks to the smoker of the finish product, adding tobacco starts affecting people before it’s processed.
“The tobacco farmers themselves, the people who pick tobacco, the people who cure it in the barns are are subjected to nicotine and other elements in tobacco as workers. And just growing tobacco itself is a health hazard.”
But Madzorea said in the meantime, health practitioners and anti-smoking advocates had to focus on those Zimbabweans smoking the finished product--- that is cigarettes and the like.
“Our advice to all Zimbabweans is, smoking is not good for your health, and you should never start smoking because it’s difficult to stop once you have started. Smoking is one of the worst evils.”
Along with many anti-smoking groups, the government has often rolled out anti-smoking campaigns to convince hundreds of thousands of tobacco smokers to quit the practice. The health ministry is expected to continue such programs, particularly targeting the youth of Zimbabwe.