No More Puffing in Public Places

The Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi announced yesterday that the Tobacco Products Control Act No 1 of 2010 would be gazetted in April, after which it would be enforced, effectively banning people from smoking tobacco in public places.

The law will also make it compulsory for tobacco companies to package cigarettes in packs designed with pictures and warnings on the danger of smoking, as well as limit and control the advertising of tobacco in the country.

After the Act was enacted, there were delays in implementing the legislation as there were no regulations to guide implementers such as law enforcement agents and inspectors as defined by the law, Kamwi said yesterday at the observance of World Cancer Day and the commemoration of SADC Healthy Lifestyle Day yesterday.

Kamwi explained that there were consultations with stakeholders, some of whom opposed measures that were presented. Kamwi noted that the tobacco industry is a multibillion dollar industry and there are many challenges in place to block measures to enforce the Act. “As a result, the regulations under the Act took time to finalise,” said Kamwi in explaining the delay in gazetting the Act.

But he warned that government has the support of the director general of the World Health Organisation who assured him of her unwavering support, both financially and technically to challenge any industry that will consider challenging government against implementing the Act.

“So we have it all. I’m warning those who are smoking in offices, those who are smoking in classrooms, those who are smoking in cars, in buses, in taxis that they must consider stopping it now. They must not wait until that defining moment in April this year,” he said to applause from the audience.

On 13 and 14 March this year a stakeholders meeting is scheduled to take place at the Ministry of Health and Social Services where deliberations will take place on the regulations. At the deliberations the minister would reveal the exact date on which regulations of the Tobacco Control Act would come into effect.

“After gazetting it (the Act) in April 2014 they must be warned – be it the hospitality industry in this country, Namibia Airports Company at Windhoek International Airport, that cubicle where they are smoking we will close it and I’m talking in terms of this Act signed by the Head of State from whom I have 100 percent support,” said the minister.

Amongst those to attend the deliberations in March are the “top cops” of the country, added the minister. In addition, regional health inspectors, representatives of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Cancer Association of Namibia and others will be part of the deliberations.

“Those who think they can take the law into their own hands and try to infect every Namibian through their puff we will deal with them accordingly,” said the minister who touched on the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Kamwi further called on the state and private sector to adopt and implement the habit of no smoking in their offices to curb cancer.

“It’s not about me but it’s about your dear wife, the children, those are the people who suffer from second-hand smoking. If they want to die themselves let them go outside there,” a concerned Kamwi said.

Highlighting how much he travels, Kamwi said people no longer smoke in airplanes. “If you fly Johannesburg-to-Washington, it’s fifteen hours non-stop and there is no smoking there yet these fellows will arrive there fresh and they want to tell us that they cannot do without smoking in their cars, to hell!” Kamwi said to the amusement of some in the audience.