CIGARETTE manufacturer BAT Zimbabwe says it is prepared to conform to tobacco regulations and is looking to unveil its next generation products which have reduced harm products.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is at the forefront of a global campaign that is calling for the regulation or outright ban of tobacco products owing to the health risk posed.
In 2005 the United Nations adopted the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which seeks to provide an internationally co-ordinate response to combating the tobacco epidemic, and sets out specific steps for governments addressing tobacco use.
Some of the steps proposed by the FCTC include adopting tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption, banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, Creating smoke-free work and public spaces.
Other measures proposed are putting prominent health warnings on tobacco packages and combating illicit trade in tobacco products.
According to BAT Head Legal & External Affairs (Zambia & Zimbabwe) Mdu Lokotfwako the company is aware of the danger posed by its products and is currently undertaken extensive research to introduce next generation products.
“As part of the BAT Group of Companies, in general, we are not opposed to tobacco products regulation.
We agree that as a product that poses risks to health, tobacco should be appropriately regulated. As a result, we do not oppose sound – we believe it should be balanced and evidence-based and should go through a formal consultation process and hence deliver its policy aims while not impeding our ability to compete, respects legal rights and protect the livelihoods of the tobacco value chain, including retailers and farmers.
With regards to addressing some of the health implications, our business globally has invested and is continuing to invest a lot in research and development around harm reduced products like Next Generation Products (NGPs).
We find comfort in the fact that a large number of reputable international public health researchers and specialists in the areas of tobacco control, nicotine science and public health policy, like the Public Health England have recognized that NGPs may contribute to smoking cessation because they hold real potential to act as a substitute and substantially less hazardous product for cigarette smokers who do not want to give up nicotine and certain of the rituals involved in smoking,” said Lokotfwako.
Lokotfwako was quick to point out that the introduction of next generation in Zimbabwe and other low income countries was still distant prospect.
Though most developing countries like Zimbabwe have vehemently opposed attempts to curb tobacco production as it is the biggest producer in Africa and a quarter of its foreign earnings are generated from the export of the crop.
This year Zimbabwe tobacco volumes hit an all time high of 238m kgs spurred by small scale resettle farmers who now account for the bulk of tobacco production.
Before the land reform exercise tobacco farming was largely the preserve of the predominantly 4 000 white farmers who produced over 80 percent of the crop.