The Ministry of Health and Child Care with support from World Health Organization (WHO) celebrated on Wednesday 12 June 2019 a belated World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) and International Day against drug Abuse and Illicit trafficking.
This year’s commemorations for the World no tobacco day are running under the theme “Tobacco and lung Health” whilst the International day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking theme is “Mobilizing the youths against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.”
In Zimbabwe, this year’s celebrations are unique in that they come on the backdrop of statistics which indicate an upsurge in the uptake of tobacco, alcohol and other toxic substances.
Ironically, this runs in tandem with this year’s theme which focuses on the negative impacts that tobacco has on people’s lungs and what can be done to reduce the tobacco-related risks to lung health.
Many youths in Zimbabwe have gory details to tell of how they are ending up as drug addicts, imbibers and partakers of illicit substances.
Former drug addict by the name Norleen Thembo gave a testimony during the commemoration and said for the past two decades, she has been a heavy drinker of alcohol and cannabis which ruined her life messing up her relationships.
What began as a way of dealing with stress, she said, degenerated into addiction that saw her having brushes with the law as she sought to support her habits.
She added that as she became heavily dependent on drugs she found herself alienated from her family and financially broke.
Norleen said it took her divine intervention for her to quit drinking and smoking cannabis.
She said God was her turning point.
Another former addict, Reverend Obert Shatai, said alcohol and cannabis had taken over his life.
Shatai said he would sneak out of the house odd hours just to get a fix.
He said he had his father and school authorities to thank for his sobriety as they would not give up on him.
The determination, love and concern that he become sober motivated him to get clean and put drugs behind.
This is despite the fact that real facts on the ground indicates that tobacco smoke is dangerous as it contains more than 7 000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.
It is also known that smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer and is responsible for more than two thirds of lung cancer related deaths.
Statistics also show that in 2018 alone, a total of 39 353 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Africa and 37 748 deaths occurred as a result.
Speaking at the gathering, WHO Zimbabwe country representative Dr Alex Gasasira said tobacco is one of the largest public health problems in the world as it kills almost half of its users.
Dr Gasasira commended Zimbabwe for actions so far to address tobacco epidemic.
He urged full implementation of the provision the WHO’s framework convention on tobacco which promotes the establishment of smoke-free public places, health warnings on tobacco packages and a ban of tobacco advertising just to mention but a few.
In 2018, a total of 39 353 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Africa and 37 748 deaths occurred.
Addressing delegates at the same event event, Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo said substance use in the country was the main cause of destruction of young people’s lives.
The Minister added that peer pressure and easy accessibility of these substances has contributed significantly to the usage of these drugs by most young children in the country.
Minister Moyo appealed to the media and the music industry to use their trade as a conduit against drug uptake by the youths in the country.
Tobacco smoking is also the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which results in a painful cough and agonizing breathing difficulties.
The risk of developing the disease is high among individuals who start smoking at a young age because tobacco smoke significantly slows lung development.
Tobacco also exacerbates asthma, which restricts activity and contributes to disability.
It has also been scientifically observed that children are at great risk as continuous exposure to tobacco smoke toxins in-utero reduces lung growth and function.
Young children exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke can also develop pneumonia, bronchitis and lower respiratory infections.
Around 165 000 children worldwide die before the age of 5 years because of lower respiratory infections caused by second-hand tobacco smoke.
The commemorations ended by the signing of the pledge to fight tobacco smoking and use of drugs and illicit drug trafficking by the Minister of health and supported by three prominent artists, Trevor Dongo, Tariro neGitare and Victor Kunonga.