Official Report Shows Botswana’s… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Official Report Shows Botswana’s Adult Tobacco Use Among Highest in Africa, Urgent Action Needed to Save Lives

Statement of Bintou Camara, Director of Africa Programs, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
December 18, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – A report released yesterday by the government of Botswana shows the country has among the highest adult tobacco use rates in Sub-Saharan Africa, a cause for concern among health officials and civil society groups concerned with public health. This report, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), shows that about 240,000 of the country’s adults aged 15 years or older used tobacco, representing a tobacco use rate of 17.6%. This tobacco use rate is the highest of any country in the region that has carried out a GATS survey. The report shows 82.2% of adults purchased single cigarettes, a regulatory loophole making it easier for consumers – including low-income people and youth - to purchase tobacco cheaply.

The GATS survey also reveals Botswana’s need to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. According to this report, 12.2% of adults who worked indoors were exposed to tobacco smoke in enclosed areas at their workplace and nearly two in three adults were exposed to secondhand smoke in bars or nightclubs. According to the World Health Organization, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke, which causes more than 1.2 million premature deaths per year and serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

We urge the government of Botswana to prioritize addressing the tobacco use epidemic as a readily available solution to reducing heart disease, lung disease, cancer and other illnesses linked with tobacco use. Cutting down tobacco use will also reduce a wide range of non-communicable diseases linked to tobacco use.

This report serves as a reminder that the government of Botswana and all governments must ignore tobacco industry interference in health policy and pass legislation to exclude tobacco companies and their allies from the policy process. Tobacco companies like British American Tobacco Botswana actively lobby to weaken life-saving tobacco control laws because they know such policies have been widely proven to work. The company also promotes its deadly business in Botswana through partnerships with retailers and other businesses under the guise of empowering small and medium enterprises.

We congratulate the Ministry of Health and Wellness of Botswana for successfully conducting and releasing the nationally representative GATS survey and the report based on the findings.  The report is a critical alert for the government of Botswana to take action to protect the health of its citizens by enacting strong tobacco control legislation before rates of tobacco use and tobacco related diseases increase even more. Moving forward quickly and decisively will save lives and help fulfill Botswana’s legal obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Without urgent action, tobacco use will claim one billion lives worldwide this century.