By DERRICK SINJELA
TOBACCO consumption remains a major public concern globally, with its use becoming increasingly popular, especially among the youth laments Tobacco Free Association of Zambia (TOFAZA) Youth Advocate Obed Lubasi.
Equally serving as TOFAZA Youth Coordinator, Mr. Lubasi expressed worry that Zambia is currently facing a high burden of Non-Communicable Diseases and Communicable Diseases; cancers, heart diseases, diabetes, Strokes, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, to name but seven attributed to a projected increase in tobacco use.
In a Monday, 3rd April, 2023, Tobacco Free Association of Zambia Youth Advocate advised the government of the Republic of Zambia, to quicken domesticate the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) to protect the present and upcoming new generation from ongoing and anticipated aggressive marketing and sale of tobacco products.
“The projected increase in tobacco-attributed mortality is alarming and demands immediate action. It is no secret that the world’s largest tobacco companies are targeting children, adolescents, and youths as replacement smokers, with special advertising and promotions of tobacco products designed to appeal to the youth, and product placement near learning institutions across the globe. Zambia is no exception to this sad development.
As youths, we are deeply concerned about the current trend, and we believe that significant reduction in tobacco use will ensure declines in Non-Communicable Diseases and a healthier national population. We urge the government to prioritize the well-being of the Zambian youth and come up with policy measures to urgently enact the tobacco control bill, which has been pending for decades,” advised Lubasi.
While acknowledging the importance of tobacco control as well-recognized and backed by an evidence-based treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which Zambia is a party, TOFAZA Youth Advocates are confident that once Health Minister Sylvia Tembo-Masebo leads domestication as an obligation of Government, citizens will be protected from devastating health, social, economic, and environmental consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to its smoke.
“It is a well-known fact that children, adolescents, and youths are more susceptible to cigarette advertising and marketing than adults. The vast majority of all smokers begin their addictive habit before they reach age 18, and almost nobody tries smoking for the first time after 18. In other words, if large numbers of children, adolescents, and youths did not try smoking and go on to become regular users, the tobacco companies eventually would not have enough adult customers to make staying in the business worthwhile.
Smoking and secondhand smoke can seriously harm children, adolescents, and youth while they are still young. Aside from the immediate bad breath, irritated eyes and throat, and increased heartbeat and blood pressure, short-term harms from youth smoking include respiratory problems, reduced immune function, increased illness, tooth decay, gum disease, and cancers gene mutations. Exposure to nicotine can have lasting effects on adolescents’ brain development. Cigarette smoking also causes children and teens to be short of breath and to have less stamina, both of which can affect athletic performances and other physical activity pursuits, reduce lung growth, and cause early cardiovascular damage,” noted Lubasi.
The Tobacco Free Association of Zambia Youth Advocate reiterated the need for government to act with urgency and protect the Zambian youth from the devastating effects of tobacco use, through enacting and enforcing the tobacco control bill, as a crucial step in safeguarding the health and well-being of the future generation of Zambia.