Officially opening a three-day World Health Organisation regional workshop on the protocol to prevent illicit trade in tobacco products, Dr Parirenyatwa said while tobacco was a major economic issue in Zimbabwe, it was harmful to health.
“Tobacco use is a risk factor for the leading non-communicable diseases that are known to contribute to over 60 percent of the total global mortality. These diseases, including cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic obstructive airway diseases are now on the rise in the African continent and also in our country,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
He said according to a recent global youth tobacco survey conducted in Zimbabwe, one in every five school-going children uses tobacco.
Dr Parirenyatwa said more than 16 percent of those children smoke tobacco, especially cigarettes.
“With an increasing prevalence of tobacco use in our country, we expect to see a rise in the burden of non-communicable diseases over the years. This is not acceptable as it will increase the burden of public health and drain our economy of not only money but the health of people,” he said.
Speaking at the same occasion, WHO representative in Zimbabwe Dr David Okello urged participants from the 10 countries attending the workshop to devise workable solutions to balance between tobacco growing and usage.
“Tobacco is good for the money, but it is bad for health, so we have to deal with this matter head on,” said Dr Okello.
He congratulated Zimbabwe for being the 43rd country in Africa out of 47 countries to sign and ratify the WHO framework on tobacco control, but urged the country to quickly domesticate the treaty.
WHO African region senior programmes officer for tobacco control and non-communicable diseases Dr William Waina said, it was important to regulate tobacco because there are no safe levels of exposure to tobacco.
Dr Waina said passive smoking was equally as bad as direct use of tobacco, hence the need to continue advocating for 100 percent smoke- free environments.
ONE in every five school-going children smokes, risking chances of developing non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes, Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa has said.He attributed the use of tobacco among youths to lack of information on the dangers of tobacco, and lack of information in schools coupled with availability of cheap products.