Smoking in public places is an annoyance and a felony that is punishable by law. The Tanzania Tobacco Control Forum (TTCF) Executive Officer, Ms Lutgart Kagaruki, said at the weekend that advocates for a smoke free Tanzania need to speak out and influence law enforcers to prosecute people who smoke in public places.
It is imperative to mention at the outset that infections that emanate from tobacco smoking are a critical health hazard. A wide range of tobacco preparations including snuff (ugoro) and varieties of crude homemade cigarettes are popular in Tanzania.
Health complications, especially respiratory impairments, take many lives in this country. So far, tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, killing more than five million people worldwide each year. Tanzanian figures are equally chilling. Scientific evidence also confirms that smokers face a high risk of death from cancers, respiratory diseases including pneumonia, stroke and many other fatal ailments. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals in the form of particles and gases.
Fatality figures relating to tobacco smoking are hard to come by in Tanzania but medical records show that an increasing number of unwitting smokers call at hospitals to complain about an onslaught of a variety of cancers and other diseases. It would be remiss on our part not to point out here that tobacco smoking cuts back on life expectancy with health complications that include erectile dysfunction and critical lung complications that cause mayhem.
In fact smoking wrecks the entire human body. Smokers sometimes pass critical problems to non-smokers around them through what is known as passive smoking. So, parents who smoke near an infant unwittingly put the child’s health at risk. Even a spouse who smokes endangers his or her non-smoking partner.
It is common to see smokers puffing in crowded places in urban centres and villages. Smokers often puff in buses, hospitals, libraries, restaurants, bars, banks, offices and crowded village markets. Accusing fingers have been pointed at manufacturers who are doing a roaring business.
The population of cigarette smokers is so big that cigarettes are money-spinners. Unfortunately, no law bans the manufacture of cigarettes in the country. It is this unfortunate scenario that almost blunts the cutting edge of the Tobacco Products Regulatory Act (2003). Consumers of tobacco products should stay warned. It is wise to refrain from smoking. The legal and health stakes are simply too high.