Tobacco control in Namibia: The importance of government capacity, media coverage, and industry interference

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Tobacco Control


University of Cape Town


BACKGROUND: Namibia is typical of low-income and middle-income countries with growing tobacco use, but with limited capacity to impose comprehensive tobacco control legislation. Despite initiating dialogue on national tobacco control policy in 1991, the country took nearly 20 years to pass the Tobacco Products Control Act.

OBJECTIVE: To use Namibia as a case study to illustrate challenges faced by low-income countries working to forward tobacco control legislation.

METHOD: Face-to-face and telephonic interviews were conducted with 13 bureaucrats and advocates currently or previously engaged in tobacco-related work in Namibia. Tobacco-related news articles from national newspapers were examined.

RESULTS: The constitutional obligation of the government to promote public health laid the foundation for Namibia's tobacco control policy. Staff capacity constraints greatly delayed the passing of tobacco control legislation. It is unclear what influence the tobacco industry's involvement as a stakeholder had on policy; however, in at least one instance, the tobacco industry actively misled government. Namibia's ratification of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was instrumental in passing legislation that meets most provisions of the international treaty. The media have generally played a supportive role in pushing the government to pass tobacco control legislation.

CONCLUSIONS: The fact that Namibia was able to pass fairly comprehensive tobacco control legislation with such meagre resources is commendable. The government must now implement the regulations that make the legislation effective. Tobacco control progress in low-income and middle-income nations can be encouraged through use of the media and improved staff and legal capacity within health ministries