Sunday, May 26, 2024
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A new approach

I came across an article about cigarettes and the public health concern surrounding smoking. The author of the article was highlighting something I had personally taken for granted but had seen everywhere. He wrote about cigarette advertising posters hanging in souks around Addis Ababa. I have a distinct memory of these advertisements posted on the souk in front of my high school. Taking into account that advertisements of cigarettes are prohibited by law, the posters were around for quite some time.

Reading the article made me think about the discussion and in some cases panic, about a potential new law related to prohibiting smoking in public places in Ethiopia. I remember it all started with Ethiopia signing a document by the Word Health Organization that requires all signatories to pass a legislation restricting smoking in public spaces, such as restaurants, bars, cafes and work spaces, in addition to a few more measures to be taken. Ethiopia is expected to pass this legislation in a year, and truth be told it has been over a year.

I am in total agreement with the need to limit smoking spaces, people should have the right to smoke but not the right to give second hand or third hand smoke to those who do not. While smoking is dangerous, I have also been struggling with another similar public health concern: pollution.

I was on a hike at Entoto on Tuesday and my lungs were breathing easier and coming back down to areas where there was a lot of construction like Casanchis or Bole, my eyes were burning and my nose got stuffy. Now, I am not the only person who has these symptoms, a lot of people complain about stuffed nose and watery eyes and it had me thinking that this is a major public health concern. All of the cement, the dry air, the dust, the car exhausts, factories in the outskirts of the city, all of these are contributing to making the air in Addis Ababa unpleasant gearing towards unhealthy.

We keep seeing new stories about how cities in China or India are shutting down schools and offices for days because the air is so polluted that it is unhealthy for people to leave their homes. My fear is that at this rate, Addis might soon be joining the list of the highly polluted cities in the world.

Despite annual vehicle inspections with enhanced focus on car exhaust levels, I have seen many cars with some of the blackest and most polluting exhausts in the city. Clearly the annual inspections are not working, and traffic police should stop those cars flagrantly polluting and give them a ticket. There needs to be some sort of oversight.

There is a certain contradiction between going through the kind of development we are achieving in Ethiopia, the economic cost and public health concerns/measures. Finding a solution at such a grand scale is not easy because implementation will be difficult. So perhaps the approach should be beyond legislation, perhaps a bigger public, I.e. Community, involvement. In this regard we have a lot to learn from Latin American countries. A resolution for 2017?


Contributed by Leyou Tameru


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