Zimbabwe’s ministry of health and child care has raised concerns over smoking habits found among school pupils. The Ministry’s more shocking report reveals that one in every five Zimbabwean pupil smokes tobacco.
Giving this report, the ministry said the high tobacco intake by school pupils risks the chances of developing non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes.
At its three-day World Health Organisation regional workshop on the protocol to prevent illicit trade in tobacco products, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said tobacco isn’t just an economic issue to Zimbabwe but also a health hazard.
“Tobacco use is a risk factor for the leading non-communicable diseases that are known to contribute to over 60 percent of the total global mortality”. He said
“These diseases, including cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive airway diseases are now on the rise in the African continent and also in our country,”
Referring to a recent global youth tobacco survey conducted in Zimbabwe, Parirenyatwa said one in every five school-going children uses the product and that more than 16 percent of those children smoke them, especially cigarette.
This report is not far from the report earlier made by the ministry in February where it reported that children as young as seven years have started smoking in the country.
A Global Youth Tobacco Survey carried out from 2014 to last year by the Ministry with the Primary and Secondary Education ministry, discovered that 12 % of pupils smoking tobacco started smoking at the age of seven or below.
Ministry of Health and Child Care director responsible for Mental Health, Tobacco, Drug and Alcohol Abuse Mrs Dorcas Sithole, who was the research co-ordinator, said the survey revealed that 22 percent of boys were using tobacco products compared to 15.8 percent of girls.
“In Zimbabwe the Global Youth Tobacco Survey was conducted in 2014 by Ministry of Health and Child Care. The overall response rate was 70,4 percent. A total of 6 427 eligible students in Grade Seven and Forms One to Three completed the survey of which 5 114 were aged 13 to 15 years.
“About 20 percent of the students have used the products and 22 percent of boys have used the product while 15,8 percent of girls have used tobacco products. It was also discovered that 16,2 percent of the students have smoked tobacco while 12,4 percent of every cigarette smokers first tried cigarette at the age of seven years or younger,” she added.
However, Dr Parirenyatwa attributed the use of tobacco among youths to lack of public awareness on the dangers of the product, and lack of information in schools coupled with availability of cheap products.
“With an increasing prevalence of tobacco use in our country, we expect to see a rise in the burden of non-communicable diseases over the years. He said, adding that this is not acceptable as it will increase the burden of public health and drain the nation’s economy.
Speaking at the same occasion, WHO representative in Zimbabwe Dr David Okello adviced participants from the 10 countries attending the workshop to devise workable solutions that will help to balance between growing the product and its usage.
“Tobacco is good for the money” he said “but it is bad for health, so we have to deal with this matter head on,”
Dr David Okello however congratulated Zimbabwe for being the 43rd country in Africa out of 47 countries to sign and ratify the WHO framework on the product control, but urged the country to quickly domesticate the treaty.
Attesting to this, Dr William Waina, WHO African region senior programmes officer for tobacco control and non-communicable diseases said it was important to curb its usage because there are no safe levels of exposure to them and that passive smoking was as bad as direct use of the product, hence the need to continue advocating for 100 percent smoke-free environments.