Zambia- Country Profile

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The Republic of Zambia is a Lower Middle-income country in the centre of southern Africa which shares borders with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Malawi.1 Life expectancy at birth is 62.3 years and 57.3% of the 9 million resident adult population earn less than the international poverty line of US$1.90 per day.23

Smoking in Zambia

In 2019, the Ministry of Health of Zambia stated that the smoking prevalence was 24% in men and 7.8% in women.4 The World Health Organization predicts that the number of smokers in Zambia will increase by an additional 300,000 people by 2025. 5The number of tobacco-related deaths in Zambia increased from an estimated 3,000 per year (43 per 100,000) in 1990 to 7,142 per year (45 per 100,000) in 2020.4

Tobacco in Zambia

According to WHO estimates, Zambia is among the top five tobacco leaf growing countries in Africa and accounted in 2012 for 9.7% of tobacco leaf production in Africa.6 Consecutive Zambian National Development Plans have emphasised the importance of tobacco production to the Zambian economy.78 The agricultural land devoted to the harvesting of tobacco in Zambia increased between 1996 and 2016 by nearly 2000% and the export quantity increased by nearly 800% in the same period.9 The value of the export of tobacco leaf has increased from US$1.4 million in 1995 to US$139.9 million in 2016.

However, the Ministry of Health of Zambia stated in 2019 that: “tobacco represents only a small percentage of total agricultural products exported and employs only 0.5 percent of small and medium scale farmers” and that about “sixty percent of tobacco farmers in Zambia are considering switching to other crops” 10

Zambia is also moving towards greater capacity for the processing of tobacco leaf and manufacturing of tobacco products. In 2018, British American Tobacco Zambia and Roland Imperial Tobacco opened cigarette-manufacturing facilities in the Lusaka Multi-Facility Economic Zone.11 It has a reported capability of producing more than 20 million cigarettes daily aimed at both the export and domestic markets. A company profile for Roland said:12

“The factory now has an installed capacity to produce 21,000 cigarettes per minute, with a running time of 15 hours per day. The state of the art of machinery, sourced from the manufacturers of the best and robust cigarette manufacturing equipment in the world, has a capacity of seven billion cigarettes per annum.”

In parallel with the increased manufacturing capacity, cigarettes are becoming more affordable in Zambia.13 Estimates from the Economist Intelligence Unit showed the inflation-adjusted price of factory-made cigarettes had nearly halved between 2002 and 2016.14 In the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Zambia, only 27% of male smokers and quitters reported that the price of cigarettes led them to think about quitting.15 Furthermore, in stark contrast with the WHO recommended 75% tax share, in 2016 Zambia’s tax comprised only 37% of the retail price of cigarettes of the most popular brand, compared with the 56% global average.16

Roadmap to Tobacco Control

Laws and regulations relating to tobacco in Zambia date back to the Tobacco Levy (no 64 of 1967, amended to Act No. 13 of 1994).17 In December 1992, the Public Health (Tobacco) Regulations (Statutory Instrument No. 163 of 1992) of the Public Health Act (Laws, Volume XI. Cap.535) banned sales to minors under the age of 16, product giveaways and pro-tobacco advertising in the media.18 Further regulations included a ban on smoking in various public places (including government buildings, private worksites, educational facilities, healthcare facilities and public transport) and text-based tobacco labelling regulations of tobacco products.

Zambia signed the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) on May 23 2008 and ratified the treaty, a legal action indicating a country’s consent to be bound by its terms, on August 21 2008.19

In April 2008, the Local Government (Prohibition of Smoking in Public Place) Regulations (Statutory Instrument No. 39 of 2008) of The Local Government Act (Laws, Volume 16, Cap 281) banned smoking in all public places.20 However the regulations introduced in April 2008 failed to comply with the FCTC and several reports highlight the lack of effective enforcement of these legal frameworks.212223

Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill

The Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill was first drafted in 2010 but was deemed to require further revision and consultations during a “consensus building” process with stakeholders.24 This delayed the bill going to cabinet. During the consultations some areas of the bill were revised to include provision for measures not in line with the FCTC, including designated smoking areas and smoking rooms. The revised consensus document was taken to cabinet by the Minister of Health but faced further criticism and was taken no further.25

The Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill 2018 developed from a redrafting of the 2010 bill for FCTC compliance. A committee on the implementation of the WHO-FCTC was formed in April 2017 incorporating representatives from across government departments.26 A Joint Needs Assessment for Tobacco Control was conducted in November 2017 by the Ministry of Health and the Convention Secretariat to identify potential constraints to full implementation of the FCTC. It was presented to the Ministry of Health in June 2018. Following this, the Zambia Tobacco and Nicotine Products Control Bill 2018 was drafted.27.

On  June 18,2019, as part of the consultation process, the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI) presented a series of presentations to Ministries opposing the measures proposed in the bill. ZACCI are a membership organisation whose activities include lobbying the Zambian government.28 ZACCI state that their members “…have the opportunity to comment government’s plans in a very early stage and influence plans in their favour.”29 Their members include the three major tobacco companies in the region; British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, and Roland Imperial Tobacco. ZACCI has previously partnered with the British American Tobacco on tobacco industry funded corporate social responsibility campaigns in Zambia.30

Civil society organizations working on tobacco control have been focusing their efforts on promoting the passing of the Bill 31. They have also been supporting the efforts of the Ministry of Health of Zambia to implement existing tobacco control measures. 32

Six priorities for the Zambian Ministry of Health on tobacco control and FCTC implementation (2018-2033)

In 2018, the Zambian Ministry of Health along with other government agencies, assessed which FCTC demand-reduction measures could have the greater impact in health and economic returns for Zambia. It selected the following six policies to be modelled.10

  • Increase tobacco taxation to reduce the affordability of tobacco products. (FCTC Article 6)
  • Enforce bans on smoking in all public places to protect people from tobacco smoke. (FCTC Article 8)
  • Mandate that tobacco products carry health warnings that cover 50 percent of the packaging. (FCTC Article 11)
  • Implement plain packaging. (FCTC Article 11: Guidelines for Implementation)
  • Institute mass media campaigns against tobacco use. (FCTC Article 12)
  • Implement and enforce a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship, and promotion. (FCTC Article 13) 10

The implementation of these policies could lead to saving more than 40,000 lives and millions in health expenditures, according to the African Tobacco Control Alliance. 32

Industry interference in tobacco control

The Zambian government’s efforts to pass tobacco control measures have faced strong tobacco industry interference. In The Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, Zambia was ranked 55th out of 57 countries assessed.

The tobacco industry is trying to block life-saving policies in the name of profit, even during a global crisis as is the COVID-19 Pandemic 33

Extensive research published in 2021 by the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, a partner in STOP, and in conjunction with BBC’s Panorama, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project uncovered multiple instances of British American Tobacco seeking to frustrate tobacco control measures in Africa.

Tobacco Company CSR in Covid-19 Pandemic

A number of corporate social responsibility activities carried out by the tobacco industry have been reported. These aim to enhance the industry’s reputation and prevent effective government regulation to reduce tobacco consumption.

Japan Tobacco International  (JTI) was reported to have donated between US$150, 000-US$300,000 for COVID-19 relief support to schools and clinics during 2020. Previous donations had gone to schools, clinics and sunk boreholes.3435

Image 1: JTI Donates Towards Covid-19 Fight in Eastern Province of Zambia, June 2020 36

In the same month as the JTI donations for COVID-19 relief, the media reported JTI was putting workers at risk during COVID-19. because of a lack of protective gear.37

Image 2, concerning conditions for tobacco workers supplying to JTI during the COVID 19 pandemic, June 202037

During an inspection by the Tobacco Free Association of Zambia, it was found that:

“tobacco farms had remained fully operational throughout the pandemic. While the government had mandated mask-wearing outside the home, only some tobacco workers were wearing one (…) increasing their risk of COVID-19 transmission. In addition, children were exposed directly to tobacco leaves, putting them at risk from health harms related to pesticide exposure and green tobacco sickness. These risks shared one common factor: children and women working in tobacco fields were not given protective equipment by JTI, the company that sponsors the tobacco farms (…)”37 38

Unnecessary interaction with and benefits for the tobacco industry

 According to the Global Tobacco Industry Interference Index 2020, Zambian government officials frequently met with the tobacco industry. This is a violation of the Article 5.3 of the FCTC. The Finance Minister and other government officials were reported to have inaugurated a manufacturing factory for British American Tobacco in November 2019, urging for more investment in the tobacco sector.4. Moreover, in 2018, the Zambian government offered five years of 0% taxes to British American Tobacco and Roland Imperial Tobacco, for opening two new cigarette manufacturing plants 39.

Tobacco Tactics resources

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  19. The Framework Convention Alliance, Ratifications/accessions in chronological order, 2019, accessed May 2019
  20. The Government of the Republic of Zambia, The Local Government (Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places) Regulations, 2008 (Statutory Instrument No. 39 of 2008). In: The Local Government Act (Laws, Volume 16, Cap 281), 2008, accessed May 2019
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  34. Zambia Reports, Chanje Thanks Govt And JTI For Investing In Community, July 2020, accessed December 2020
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