Where Is Our Bill? Zambian CSOs call for Tabling of the TOBACCO CONTROL LEGISLATION before Parliament
By Derrick Sinjela and Ashton Kelly Bunda
THE six (6) member Zambia Consortium on Tobacco Control has reiterated a call urging the Zambian Government, though Health Minister Dr. Jonas Kamima Chanda to table tobacco control legislation (the “Tobacco Control Bill”) before Parliament adjourns sine die on Wednesday 12th May 2021.
In a Wednesday 17th March Press Release circulated by Zambia Media Network Against Tobacco (ZAMNAT) National Chairperson Paxina Phiri, the CSOs believe that tabling of The Tobacco Control Bill is in essence domestication of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (“WHO FCTC”) to which Zambia became a signatory on Friday 23rd May 2008.
However, almost 13 years later, no domestication of this legal instrument has been tabled before Parliament, read a Press Statement signed by the six (6) member Zambia Consortium on Tobacco Control are the Centre for Primary Care Research, Cancer Association of Zambia, Zambia Consumer Association, Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Zambia, Zambia Media Network Against Tobacco and Heart and Stroke Foundation.
“As Civil Society Organisations with a vested interest in the health and economic livelihoods of the people of Zambia, we are concerned that despite several deliberations and stakeholders’ consultations, our calls to enact appropriate tobacco control legislation have gone unheeded. Domestically, tobacco related illnesses and deaths cost the Zambian economy approximately ZMW 2.8 billion, which equates to 1.2 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GD),” prayed Ms. Phiri.
The Ministry of Health has reported that there are over 7, 000 tobacco related illnesses yearly with youths an adolescents being the most at risk.
The Ministry of Health estimated approximately 7,312 tobacco related deaths in 2020 alone.
“The urgency to enact the tobacco control legislation is further exacerbated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early indications are that smokers have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than their non-smoking counterparts,” noted Ms. Phiri.
Ms. Phiri is extremely worried that Zambia has one of the highest rate of illicit trading in tobacco and nicotine products in Southern Africa, which presents an added health and economic burden as these products are more easily accessible to young people.
“In addition, there is little or no control on issues around pricing and considerable revenue is lost through tax evasion. Tobacco consumption is therefore a developmental issue as opposed to one that is purely health related and must therefore be dealt with holistically. In spite of these harrowing statistics however, we as Civil Society note that policy statements by the government continue to support the tobacco industry objectives, a case in point being the declaration by a Japan Tobacco
International executive that it is a “all weather government partner” during the donation of COVID-19 protection supplies to Senior Eastern Province health officials in 2020. This is contrary to the guidelines and tenets of the WHO FCTC which Zambia is obligated to uphold by virtue of
being a signatory. The Tobacco industry is globally notorious for interfering in policy and legislative processes in order to further its agenda and civil society, we implore on the government to be cautious in its dealings with the tobacco industry and to place the interests of the Zambian people before fleeting economic gains offered by the industry. Of equal concern is that Parliament is a few months shy of being dissolved on account of the upcoming general elections. This makes the process of bringing draft legislation before Parliament for debate all the more urgent,” Ms. Phiri cried foul.
Phiri urged the Ministry of Health as the custodian of the WHO FCTC and subsequent draft domestic legislation to expedite the process and seek urgent Cabinet approval in order to have the Tobacco Control Bill tabled before Parliament and passed as law.
Meanwhile, the Zambia Consortium on Tobacco Control protested at the Ministry of Health and later Sylvester Katontoka, Charity Syatalimi and Evelyn Moloka met MoH Permanent Secretary for Technical Services, Dr. Kennedy Malama.
The white-tea-shirt clad placard protesters caught the inquisitive eye of early bird staff at Ndeke House, which is the administrative abode of the Ministry of Health.
Just for emphasis, the PF manifesto pledges to domesticate the FCTC which Zambia ratified on Friday 23rd May 2008, 13 years ago.
“To this procrastination in domesticating the FCTC, three CSO leaders; two females – Charity Syatalimi, Evelyn Moloka and Mr. Sylvester Katontoka protested at the Ministry of Health seeking audience with Dr. Chanda a Patriotic Front (PF) Member of Parliament for Bwana Mukumbwa, in Ndola, Copperbelt Province on the need to quicken generation of the Cabinet Memorandum (CAB) Memo on the Matter at Hand.
Reasons for Protest held in Lusaka at MoH on Wednesday 17th March 2021 are thus: “It is now well established that the delay for the Tobacco and Nicotine Control Bill is at the Ministry of Health because: ‘All the information that has been demanded before by other Ministries- Commerce,
Agriculture and Tourism, has been provided to the Ministry of Health. This includes the … 1. Regulatory Impact Assessment asked by Tobacco Industry through the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry to Cabinet in August 2008. 2. The Investment Cases for Tobacco Control and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs); and 3. The recommendations from Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) to submit the Bill.
Meanwhile, Centre for Primary Care Research Director Professor Fastone Matthew Goma says a special drug that can help people addicted to Nicotine found in cigarettes is available in form of ones desire to be healthy, a deliberate act that will help Zambia achieve sustainable development goals through reducing number of smokers to 11 per cent by the 2030.
Speaking during a Saturday 20th March 2021 one-day Editors workshop at Lusaka’s Sandy’s Creation, Professor Goma said the World Health Organisation (WHO) is on a vigorous campaign to birth a generation born in 2010 that is cigarette smoking-free.
Professor Goma said Zambia is one of the countries globally lagging and less represented on the world platform due to lack of knowledge translation thus a renewed media campaign compelling stakeholders and politicians to domesticate the Tobacco Control bill, which Zambia ratified 13 years ago.
During the question and answer session, moderated by Ms. Paxina Phiri, Professor Goma said his team has managed to incorporate 20 Members of Parliament and traditional leaders to help overcome challenges delaying domestication of the FCTC.