Locals smoke 10m cigarettes a day

HARARE - Zimbabweans are smoking at least 10 million cigarettes a day amid indications that the habit is expected to increase in the near future.

Statistics from British American Tobacco Zimbabwe (BAT Zimbabwe) and Savanna Tobacco (Savanna) show that the two companies produced two billion sticks each in 2014, translating to 10 million cigarettes per day.

BAT Zimbabwe finance director Peter Doona recently told The Daily News on Sunday that his company — whose portfolio of products includes such brands as Dunhill, Newbury, Madison, Everest, Kingsgate and Berkeley — would want to increase its cigarette production.

“Last year we produced about two billion sticks and 1,357 billion sticks were sold,” he said adding that the company does not export any cigarettes.

“It is our wish that the target would grow but people here don’t smoke as much,” added Doona.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe’s second largest cigarette producer, Savanna produces nearly four billion sticks annually with two billion being consumed locally while the rest is exported into the region.

Gerald Gumbo, the Head of Marketing at Savanna, holders of the Pacific brand which comes in three flavours — Storm, Mist, Breeze and Blue, noted that the company aims to increase production and “be Africa’s second largest cigarette manufacturer by 2020”.

“We are renowned for our experience in delivering quality, innovative brands that are tailored for the unique needs and requirements of our Zimbabwean and African consumers,” said Gumbo.

The latest increase in smoking comes at a time when a recent World Health Organisation (WHO)survey revealed that at least 21 percent of men in Zimbabwe — which has a population of 13 million — smoke cigarettes.

The study, which aims at providing comprehensive estimates of recent trends in tobacco smoking worldwide, and to make projections for future tobacco smoking trends in order to provide estimates of the probabilities of achieving the reduction targets set by United Nation agencies,  predicted a rapid tobacco smoking increase in Africa for men.

This also comes hard on the heels of increased lobbying by anti-tobacco activists to reduce smoking through the enactment of laws that ban branded cigarette packets.

Early this month Ireland became the first country in Europe to pass laws banning branded cigarette packets.

Following the example set by Australia, all tobacco products sold in Ireland will be in a standard dark-coloured wrapper emblazoned with large health warnings and images of disease.

Slim boxes of cigarettes, in lipstick-style shapes, will also be illegal under the reform.

Brand names will be small and use similar fonts on all packets in the marketing clampdown which is likely to be challenged in the courts, either in Ireland or under European rules.

Zimbabwean companies are, however, fiercely opposed to a ban on tobacco branded cigarettes and the country has joined as a third party to what is the largest challenge that has been lodged at the World Trade Organisation against Australia’s Plain Packaging decision.

“We are strongly opposed to plain packaging for our products because it doesn’t respect our minimum guaranteed rights on trade mark protection,” said Shingai Koti, the BAT Zimbabwe spokesperson.

She added that there was no credible evidence that plain packaging will stop children from taking up smoking or encourage current smokers to quit.

“On the contrary, Australia introduced plain packaging two years ago and the experiment has failed — legal volumes are up, illicit trade has significantly increased and the historic reduction in smoking rates has eased. The conclusion that plain packaging is an effective measure for public health defies logic,” said Koti.  

Meanwhile, Gumbo said it was critical to question the real motives behind the recent escalation in anti-cigarette lobbying groups in Zimbabwe.

“Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s most important crop, bringing over $600 million into the economy every year. There is a 10 times value multiplier between the tobacco we export today and cigarettes,” he said.

“When our cigarette manufacturing industry reaches its full sales and exports potential, the $650 million in exports increases ten-fold to $6,5 billion.

“This is even before we quantify the multiplier effect on downstream employment creation and empowerment,” said Gumbo.

He argued that from the look of things, anti-tobacco lobbyists had no plan to replace the lost national revenues and employment.

“It appears that there is no consistent, logical and transparent policy statement from these lobbyists regarding their objectives, their position on national economic development without tobacco, their plans for replacing the jobs lost through their lobbying and their interventions in other industries.

“Until such time as these issues are clarified, the Zimbabwean public will rightly look upon these lobbying efforts as the same war Africans have been fighting for years. Any industry is acceptable to the West until Africans start taking it over,” said Gumbo.


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