A five-day tobacco training workshop was held by the Ministry of Health and Social Services with assistance from WHO in order to develop national tobacco control policies. Through stakeholder participation, the workshop that began on September 11, 2023 in Rundu, Kavango East, also sought to improve participants’ knowledge, abilities, and competencies. Participants came from a range of industries and government agencies, including law enforcement. The workshop was attended by numerous health partners, including members of civil society.
In November 2005, Namibia accepted the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The WHO FCTC requires member states to set up a system, commit to limiting tobacco use, and encourage public understanding of the hazards associated with tobacco use.
Dr. Ester Muinjangue, Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, gave the inaugural address during the training workshop’s formal opening.
Muinjangue pointed out that Namibia has a track record of tobacco control accomplishments and complies with WHO FCTC requirements. For instance, even before the Tobacco Products Control Act of 2010 was enacted into law, the Namibian government outlawed all tobacco product promotions, billboards, and commercials in electronic and print media.
Furthermore, smoking was outlawed in all government buildings in Namibia in 2005, and it is also not permitted in any hospital or other public building. Every public area is also smoke-free. In 2010, the Tobacco Products Control Act was enacted into law, and in 2014, the regulations followed.
According to Muinjangue, these legal tools altered the landscape of tobacco control initiatives. Also, “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.