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New Tobacco Legislation Catches On

Namibia: New Tobacco Legislation Catches On
By Desie Heita, 16 April 2012Comment

Windhoek – The legislation that seeks to force tobacco companies to sell
cigarettes in plain packaging is slowly catching on with Britain
considering implementing the law, following in Australia’s footsteps.

This is the same legislation that had the world’s biggest and Namibian
market leader in tobacco products, British American Tobacco (BAT),
threatening Namibian lawmakers with a legal challenge if they promulgated
such amendments into Namibian law.

Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, wants to add
restrictions to a part of the section in the Tobacco Products Control Act
No. 1 of 2010. Once in force, the Act would black out marketing and
promotion of tobacco products in the country and restrict tobacco vending
machines to controlled areas with an 18-year age limit.

The amendments were gazetted in November last year with subsequent public

The Act also prohibits sponsorship of any Namibian event, however
charitable, by tobacco companies or distributors of tobacco products.

BAT threatened to take lawmakers to court unless changes were made,
saying the proposed restrictions would allow government to expropriate
its trademark properties while robbing the company of freely
communicating to consumers the nature of the lawful products on offer.

According to the proposed regulations, the display of wordings “mild, low
tar or light” would never appear on cigarette boxes or any other tobacco
products because they create the impression to consumers that such a
specific tobacco product is less harmful than others.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services motivated its stance by saying
there is a notable increase in the number of young smokers, most of whom
are women.

Figures provided by the ministry in mid-2010 singled out Hardap Region as
the region where most women smoke with an average percentage higher than
the estimated global women percentage.

The ministry is scared that the number of young smokers could increase as
tobacco companies capitalise on marketing opportunities that become
available to entice new smokers.

In Hardap, the average is 24 percent, which the health ministry says,
“tops the list of women smokers countrywide”.

Interestingly, that average percentage also exceeds the estimated number
of women smokers worldwide, at 20 percent of the total number of smokers.

In Omaheke, women smokers are estimated at 5 percent. “The number could
increase as the industry sees opportunities for business, especially
among women and the youth,” the Ministry of Health and Social Services
had warned.

In addition, the Act mandates the establishment of a fund from levies on
sales of tobacco and other sources.

The fund would partly use the money to pay for treatment of
tobacco-related illnesses.

A mandatory restriction on packaging methods is also being proposed – and
packaging would include graphic pictures depicting the ill health
associated with smoking.

These range from stained teeth, throat cancer to damaged lungs and breast
cancer with appropriate warnings underneath the picture.

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