via Green tobacco kills 136 children every year | The Zimbabwean 24 June 2014 by Thabani Dube
At least 136 children die from green tobacco-related illnesses annually, says former health minister and current adviser to the president, Dr Timothy Stamps.
“Growing of tobacco is dangerous in this country for three reasons; deforestation, child labour and diseases,” he said recently at the combined launch of World No Tobacco Day and the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Children are used by tobacco farmers to tend and pick tobacco during off-school periods and thereby exposed to the green leaf which, according to Stamps, causes sickness and death as the nicotine is absorbed into the blood system.
According to the World Health Organisation, tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death, causing one death every six and half seconds globally.
“Tobacco is a carrier of several dangerous drugs. Nicotine is addictive and also affects the heart if taken in large quantities,” said Stamps.
Smoked tobacco delivers nicotine faster than injected pure nicotine and it takes between seven to 10 seconds to reach all parts of the body. Research suggests that people who start smoking in their teens and continue for two decades or more, will die 20 to 25 years earlier than those who never smoke.
But Stamps said the drug did have positive uses. “People get addicted because nicotine makes you feel calmer and less depressed. It is the only drug I know which cures anxiety and depression at the same time, so it is a valuable drug. We are prone to think of tobacco as all bad – but if properly extracted some of the tobacco substances can be used in medicine,” he said.
He gave nicotinemite as an example of the B Complex Vitamins that used to be exclusively extracted from tobacco. Stamps said the country’s policies and authorities should complement each other in curbing the use of hard drugs.
“Hard drugs are also finding their way into the country and often young people are targeted. While the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe allows certain hard drugs to be imported, on the other hand we have the police arresting the people for selling the drugs,” he said.
According to the UN office on drugs and crime (UNODC), nearly 200 million people worldwide are using illegal drugs such as mbanje, cocaine and others that have negative effects on the mind and body of the user.