World attitude on tobacco has been stable,but not adequately effective

01Jun 2020
Editor
The Guardian
World attitude on tobacco has been stable,but not adequately effective

MAY 31 is marked annually as World No Tobacco Day with global efforts to stop young people from joining the smoking club, while the aiding of adults to quit the habit is reinvigorated.

There have understandably been few activities of that sort this year, largely owing to ongoing restrictions on social gatherings – which applies to most settings save for the most necessary.

In that case the World No Tobacco Day would have been marked by messaging among activists. An official information site says the World No Tobacco Day is a day for people in NGOs and governments to organise various activities to make people aware of the health problems tobacco use can cause.

Such activities are mainly directed at public marches often with banners, advertising campaigns and educational programmes, and people going to public places to encourage people to stop smoking.

It has also encouraged the passage of regulations like the introduction of bans on smoking in particular places or types of advertising. It also provides a convenient atmosphere for meetings of anti-tobacco campaigners.

What has perhaps been the more encouraging impact is the worldwide enactment of laws restricting smoking in particular areas. This kind of instruction has a mental impact on those on the margins of the smoking club as it may enhance their ability to count the pros and cons more soberly, not just see it as some sort of lifestyle or fashion.

That is an immediate impact whose actual effectiveness can be gauged via extensive interviews and gathering of data, which NGOs do most of the time – and, with tobacco a source of non-communicable diseases, it is a top issue.

Campaigns against tobacco use started when experimental medicine was gaining ground, especially after World War II, and the generalisation of public medical care made it a thorny issue adding to the medical burden significantly.

In another aspect, it is less legitimate as a habit socially speaking compared to alcohol use, in which case the campaign against it has been more effective while alcohol is merely tracked by sparse and half-hearted security checks.

And, again unlike alcohol, it has been possible especially in the United States to file mass litigation cases for instance where a person contracts lung cancer out of smoking. This led to big warnings on each packet of cigarettes.

As Tanzania lacks a vibrant social sector and major tobacco companies, while for decades the Treasury was sensitive to tobacco-based taxes (apart from beer), little local input has been registered in that direction.

Tobacco is a contributing cause to the felling of trees and the cutting up of bushes for ‘curing’ the crop, but the point one hears in that direction is that there is plenty of child labour which ought to be ended. We still have a way to go, evidently.

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