PARLIAMENT has ratified the protocol that seeks to control tobacco smoking amid concerns by legislators of the potential effects on the tobacco growers.
Health and child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera steered the motion in both the House of Assembly and Senate last week.
He said the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was opened for signature on 16th June to 22 June 2003 in Geneva and from 29 June, 2003 to 28 June 2004 in New York.
Minister Madzorera said tobacco use was one of the leading preventable causes of death with nearly six million people dying each year, of which more than 600 000 people are exposed to second hand smoke.
“Tobacco causes disease in nearly every part of the body that you may think of.
“The major pathology caused by tobacco is cancer, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular conditions, tooth decay, hair loss, premature ageing, and hearing loss,” said Minister Madzorera in Senate.
“Nearly any part of the body can be affected. For men, this is particularly important, tobacco can cause impotence.”
One of the measures recommended by the Protocol was the imposition of restrictions on importation of duty free tobacco products by travelers.
Murehwa Senator Tendayi Makunde (Zanu-PF) bemoaned the possible adverse effects the convention might have on tobacco farmers.
“What comes into the minds of tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe is that we are going to run out of business because tobacco is our cash crop,” said Cde Makunde.
“We also know that the tobacco we grow is not just for smoking but there are other bi-products.”
Mashonaland East Chief Musarurwa said there was a need to protect farmers so that they were not affected by the objective of the Protocol.
“We all know that our country is under siege from illegal sanctions but we also know that tobacco is a cash crop. It is giving more money in this country. Our country is supported by money from tobacco and our country is run by this cash crop,” he said.
Zvimba Senator Virginia Muchenje (Zanu-PF) said there was a need for Government to provide resources to farmers so that they can plant other crops.
“We are farmers and I am one of the farmers. The problem is we have problems in getting farming implements which may be used in ploughing other cash crops, as a result we resort to tobacco.
If only we could have some ways of getting support for getting other cash crops, definitely we would diversify,” he said.
In response Minister Madzorera said the convention would enable Zimbabwe to raise funds for those farmers who would stop growing tobacco.
“It is the duty of the convention to enable us to raise funds, even at international level, to assist the farmers that are going to stop growing tobacco, they will be assisted. They have barns and other things that will have been rendered useless. This in relation to how best we can compensate farmers, so that they can have new infrastructure to grow tobacco, soya beans or other crops.”
He said no person would for now be forced to stop growing tobacco but the main objective was for people to stop smoking.