The Ministry of Health and Social Services with support from WHO conducted a five-day tobacco training workshop to strengthen tobacco control measures in the country.
The workshop that started on 11 September 2023 at Rundu in the Kavango East region also aimed at strengthening participants’ knowledge, skills and competencies through stakeholder engagement.
The participants were from various sectors, including different government departments, including law enforcement. Various health partners, including those from civil society also attended the training.
Namibia ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in November 2005.
The WHO FCTC provides for member states to establish infrastructure and make a commitment to the control of tobacco use as well as promoting community awareness of the risks related to tobacco use.
Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Ester Muinjangue, was the keynote speaker at the official opening of the training workshop.
Muinjangue noted that Namibia has documented successes in tobacco control and met standards set out in the WHO FCTC.
For example, the Namibian government banned all tobacco product advertisements in the electronic and print media, billboards and promotion well before the Tobacco Products Control Act of 2010 was signed into law.
Furthermore, Namibia banned smoking in all government premises in 2005, and smoking is not allowed in any health facility and public premises. Smoking is also banned in all public spaces.
The Tobacco Products Control Act was passed into law in 2010, followed by the regulations which were passed in 2014.
These legal instruments changed the landscape of tobacco control measures, Muinjangue said.
Further, “the Government took a stance to encourage farming in other cash crops other than tobacco. The Government wishes to make tobacco consumption an expensive undertaking through annual increases in customs and excise duties and levies,” Muinjangue explained.
In addition, there are measures to ensure the control of contraband tobacco by the Namibian Customs and Excise Department and the Ministry of Health and Social Services through the country’s borders.
Despite these efforts, Muinjangue feels further “intensification can be encouraged through strengthened and empowered health workforce within the Ministry of Health and Social Services supported by our development cooperation partners”.
Muinjangue reminded government officials and policymakers attending the workshop to implement suitable policies and strategies to enable market conditions for tobacco farmers, by switching them to growing food crops to curb the food crisis.
She also urged green activists and public social welfare associations to collaborate in promoting efforts to stop the growing of tobacco.
The Health Ministry’s Deputy Minister further said countries should respond to the tobacco epidemic through the full implementation of the WHO FCTC.
“To achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of a one-third reduction in non-communicable diseases premature mortality by 2030, tobacco control must be a priority for governments and communities worldwide,” highlighted Muinjangue.
She further cautioned: “As it stands, the world is not on track to meeting this target”. She also urged the workshop participants to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco.
She called on the workshop participants and stakeholders to ensure that tobacco control in the country is strengthened and extensively implemented in all sectors.
“Significant reduction in tobacco use will ensure declines in non-communicable diseases and promote healthier lifestyles,” stressed Muinjangue.
The training workshops were conducted over a period of two weeks. The first week had participants from the Zambezi, Kavango East and West, Ohangwena, Kunene, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto regions and the second training was from 18 September and included participants from Otjozondjupa, Khomas, Hardap, !Khomas, Omaheke and Erongo regions.
The meetings recommended revisions to the regulations that would strengthen enforcement and provide better protection against tobacco smoke for all.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Namibia.