Programme Sparks Hope For Tobacco Battle

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In a bold move against Botswana’s tobacco crisis, the Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS) in Maun revealed that its new Tobacco Control Programme has reached over 16,000 people. Astonishingly, 91% of active users in the program are now committed to quitting and are attending counseling sessions.

Motlaleng Motlaleng, the Head of the Rehabilitation Center at BRCS in Maun, emphasised the critical health risks associated with tobacco use in his address. “Tobacco use is responsible for about 90% of all non-communicable diseases. The battle against tobacco addiction is a silent but strenuous one for smokers, and we at BRCS are here to help,” he stated.

In a recent workshop, it was revealed impressive statistics from the BRCS Tobacco Control Programme, which is backed by the Botswana government. Since its inception, the programme has reached approximately 17,000 people, with about 2,000 active users receiving counseling and treatment, with 91% of users currently planning to quit within the Maun area.

Motlaleng added, “Since the programme’s start, we have worked tirelessly with stakeholders and patients to mitigate the severity of tobacco use. Though we have made significant progress, we believe there is much more to be done.”

Recent studies highlight the public health concerns of tobacco use in Botswana. The Tobacco Atlas reports that the adult smoking prevalence in Botswana is around 22%, with men having a higher rate (23%) compared to women (6.6%). Moreover, males are significantly more likely to smoke tobacco, with the odds being over eight times higher than females. Conversely, females are more likely to use smokeless tobacco.

A study by Keetile et al. in 2023, titled “Prevalence and Correlates of Tobacco Use in Botswana: Evidence from the 2014 Botswana STEPwise Survey,” found that individuals with no formal education have a much higher prevalence of smoking. The odds of smoking are three times higher for those without education beyond the primary level compared to those with tertiary education. Additionally, individuals who consume alcohol are four times more likely to smoke than non-drinkers.

The Botswana Red Cross Society launched the Tobacco Control Unit in Maun earlier this year, an initiative supported by the Ministry of Health. This unit aims to protect the community from the harmful effects of tobacco consumption.

Motlaleng emphasised the importance of preventive measures, saying, “Although we are making progress in addressing tobacco use, we strongly believe that prevention is better than treatment. We have already started engaging with primary schools to educate children about the health risks of tobacco use. Today, we hope to carry this message forward and help mitigate tobacco use cases in Botswana.”

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