Namibians among the heaviest smokers in Africa
14 August 2019 | Health
A World Health Organisation (WHO) report ranks Namibia's tobacco consumption eighth in Africa.
The highest prevalence of tobacco smoking in Africa is in Lesotho, followed by Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and Madagascar.
The country with the lowest prevalence of tobacco smoking in Africa is Ethiopia.
According to the report 136 countries, with a total population of five billion people, have implemented at least one policy intervention to reduce tobacco demand.
The Namibia Tobacco Products Control Act and its regulations came into effect on 1 April 2014. The Act is the primary tobacco control law in Namibia and regulates, among other things, smoke-free places, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and tobacco packaging and labelling. Regulations under the Act make provision for tobacco product health warnings, signage at the point of sale, product regulation measures, prohibited distance of smoking tobacco products from public places and workplaces, and measures to prevent illicit trade in tobacco products.
“More than ever, people are aware of tobacco's harms and consequences.
Due in part to these successes, many tobacco users now want to quit and we know how to help them,” says the report.
However, it notes that as of 2018 only 23 countries offered comprehensive cessation support for tobacco users seeking help to quit.
Tobacco cessation services include national toll-free phone lines, counselling by primary healthcare providers and cost-covered nicotine replacement therapy.
The report says non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cause more than two thirds of deaths in developing countries, and tobacco use is a major risk factor for NCDs such as cancer and heart disease.
“Yet, programmes to reduce NCDs remain chronically underfunded. Only 2% of development funding goes toward their prevention.
We are deeply concerned by the fact that the tobacco epidemic is shifting to the developing world, where less-well-resourced countries find themselves unable to counter tobacco industry exploitation of new markets – often through blatant interference with public health policy-making,” it points out.
According to the report there are an estimated 1.1 billion smokers in the world, around 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries.
It adds that there is a misconception that smoke-free places with designated smoking rooms protect non-smokers from second-hand smoke.
“The only intervention shown to fully protect from second-hand smoke is a smoke-free environment that permits no exceptions. It is important to remind countries that no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke exists.”
Accommodations for smoking including separate rooms, designated smoking areas, ventilation systems, air exchanges, and filtration devices are not protective, and cannot eliminate all second-hand smoke.
Furthermore the report says that graphic health warnings on tobacco product packages reliably reach tobacco users each time they use the products.
“At the same time, applying warning labels to packaging is at relatively low expense to governments. Graphic health warnings are well supported by the public – more so than most other tobacco control measures.”
Graphic health warnings also provide accurate information about the risks associated with tobacco use can help persuade tobacco users to reduce their consumption and quit.
Nicotine, a pharmacologically active drug that naturally occurs in the tobacco plant, is highly addictive and is delivered rapidly to the brain following inhalation or ingestion of tobacco products.
People who stop smoking start to reap the health benefits within hours or even minutes of quitting. In the course of just a day, quitting tobacco can reduce a person's heart rate and blood pressure, while blood carbon monoxide levels return to normal.
Within three months of quitting smoking, the circulation and lung function of a quitter improves. Coughing and shortness of breath will generally decrease within nine months of quitting smoking. The risk of death due to tobacco use also begins to decrease soon after quitting.