No-Tobacco Day targets industry
According to the World Health Organization WHO, tobacco is one of the leading global causes of preventable death which kills nearly 6 million people every year, of which more than 600,000 are people exposed to second-hand smoke – one third of these are children.
Rwanda joined the rest of the world in observing the this year’s World No-Tobacco Day, with a theme showing that WHO has shifted into higher gear in highlighting the tactics the tobacco industry uses to weaken and undermine global and national tobacco control efforts: “Stop tobacco industry interference in tobacco control.”
WHO points out that the problem is that the tobacco industry is constantly trying to weaken and undermine global and national tobacco control efforts to market its harmful products, the organization and urges governments and individuals to raise awareness about, monitor and stop tobacco industry interference.
Francois Habiyaremye, of the department of clinical services in the health ministry, acknowledges that the problem with the tobacco industry is real. “People linked to the industry can be very crafty when it comes to finding ways of working without any restraint,” he remarks.
Habiyaremye says that some of the methods that may be used include using money to sponsor researchers (to not do tobacco-related research), sponsoring politicians and other people in decision-making positions to get them on their side, and sometimes even using threats and suing governments for hindering them.
As Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of WHO said in her keynote speech for the 15th World Conference on Tobacco and Health in March: “The enemy, the tobacco industry, has changed its face and its tactics. The wolf is no longer in sheep’s clothing, and its teeth are bared.”
The consumption of tobacco is increasing globally and nearly 80% of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries that are least equipped to deal with the detrimental consequences for public health and the economy; and the WHO highlights that unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll could rise to more than 8 million by 2030. Most of those deaths will take place in low- and middle-income countries.
“The government has taken steps in the past few years to fight against the spread of tobacco,” Habiyaremye explains. “Some of these include not allowing the tobacco industry to advertise openly to the wide public like on TV and billboards.”
He also pointed out that the government does not accept any aid or sponsorship from donors related to the tobacco industry, and monitors interactions with the tobacco industry.
Among the activities organized to mark the day, a march took place at the National University of Rwanda in Huye, to raise awareness among the students and the population in general.