Mbabane: Smoking is costing the Kingdom of Eswatini E684 million annually thus impeding efforts to improve the health system and grow the economy.
This is according to the recent report compiled by the United Nations Development Agency (UNDP), Ministry of Health, RTI International, and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control World Health Organization.
The report has found out that tobacco use cost the Eswatini economy E684 million, equivalent to 1.1 percent of its GDP. These annual costs include E64 million in healthcare expenditures and E620 million in lost productive capacities due to premature mortality and disability as well as workplace smoking breaks.
The productivity losses from current tobacco use in Eswatini- 91 percent of all tobacco-related costs-indicate that tobacco use impedes development in Eswatini beyond health; multi-sectoral engagement is required for effective tobacco control, and other sectors benefit substantially from supporting tobacco control investments, through a healthier and more productive labour force.
According to the report, every year tobacco use kills more than 600 EmaSwati, with 66 percent of these deaths among individuals under age 70 and that is premature death. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of lives lost from tobacco use are due to exposure to secondhand smoke.
The report, therefore, suggests that the Government of Eswatini can reduce the national burden from tobacco use. The investment case findings demonstrate that enacting and enforcing seven proven WHO FCTC tobacco control measures would, over the next 15 years:
Avert SZL 2.7 billion in economic losses. Of this total, SZL 2.5 billion is restored economic output. The tobacco-control measures stimulate economic growth by ensuring that fewer people 1) drop out of the workforce due to premature mortality, 2) miss days of work due to disability or sickness, and 3) work at a reduced capacity due to smoking breaks or tobacco-related health issues.
Lead to an additional E252 million in savings through avoidance of tobacco attributable healthcare expenditures. Of this, the Government would save E116 million in healthcare expenditures, citizens would save E29 million in out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and E107 million would be saved from other sources of healthcare expenditures.
Save 3,300 lives and reduce the incidence of disease. The recommended WHO FCTC tobacco control measures would contribute to Eswatini’s efforts to achieve SDG Target 3.4 to reduce by one-third premature mortality (under age 70) from non -communicable diseases (NCDs) by 2030. Enacting the WHO FCTC measures would prevent nearly 900 premature deaths from the four main NCDs by 2030, the equivalent of about 9 percent of the needed reduction in premature mortality to achieve SDG Target 3.4.
Provide economic benefits (SZL 2.7 billion) that significantly outweigh the costs of implementing the seven WHO FCTC measures (E183 million). Mandating large graphic health warnings has the highest return on investment (51:1), followed by implementing and enforcing bans on smoking in public places (38:1), increasing cigarette taxes (35:1), expanding and enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship (33:1), mass media campaigns (32:1), implementing plain packaging of tobacco products (17:1), and cessation by training health professionals to provide brief advice to quit smoking (2:1).
In commemoration of this day, the Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said this day serves as a reminder of the devastating effects of tobacco on the health of its users and secondhand smokers.
The Minister said Tobacco poses a serious threat to public health due to the magnitude of the burden of disease and death that imposes on users and non-users affected by secondary smoking.
Nkosi said studies have proven that smokers are susceptive to developing the severe disease with COVID-19 as opposed to non-smokers. “This attributed to Tobacco being a known risk factor to many respiratory infections and tends to increase their severity.
Nkosi urged EmaSwati to commit to quit smoking to save their lives and the lives of others from the destructive effects of tobacco.