By Madi S. Njie
Two months have elapsed since the Enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act this year, and as Gambians celebrate ‘‘World No Tobacco Day’’ this year, Modou Njie, the Director of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on behalf of the Health Minister, declared all public places in the country as ‘‘no-smoking areas’’.
Speaking during events marking World No Tobacco Day 2019 held at the Central Medical Stores in Kotu, Njie said the Tobacco Control Act bans smoking in public places and these include restaurants, Hotels, garages and car parks among others; that public institutions where people meet in large numbers, are also declared smoke free environments and that these include Police Stations, Health facilities and all other public institutions. While commending the Minister of Health Dr Mamadou Lamin Samateh for endorsing their proposal to facilitate effective service delivery, Njie assured that the Tobacco Control Act will be fully implemented by the authorities.
“Children under 18 should not be sent to buy cigarettes and all shopkeepers should not sell single sticks of cigarette to anyone. They should only sell per packet of cigarette. We want all places to be smoke free and we want to start with ourselves,” he said.
Momodou Gassama, WHO’s Communication Officer in his remarks commended the Gambia Government for championing the global crusade against tobacco use and trade; that a multi-sectorial working group committee comprising relevant Government sectors was set up to combat Tobacco use, resulting in the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act; that the process of Tobacco control started in 1988 in the USA, when people started suing tobacco Companies for killing their family members. He said this is why World No Tobacco Day is celebrated every year; that this was at a time when the developing World were just consumers while the developed World were the producers.
Gassama said currently, out of 1.1 Billion people who use Tobacco, 80% of them live in developing countries; that 8 Million people dying from smoking of which 7 Million people die out of direct cigarette smoke inhalation while 1.2 million die from second hand smoking. Dwelling further Gassama explained that smoke remains in the air for five hours after a person smokes, and that this can harm anyone who inhales it; that ‘World No Tobacco Day’ is celebrated on the 31st of every May but that what is important is celebrating the day itself.
Commenting on the harmful effects of smoking, Gassama said the “impact of cigarette smoking on the heart” was the theme for last year’s celebration; that this is because tobacco smoke breaks the air sacks of the lungs, causing respiratory problems; that two thirds of all lung cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use. Mr Gassama said there is proof that smoking causes 7,000 different diseases; that a good number of children are smoking nowadays because they are exposed to the habbit at home by their parents. “Tobacco and Health are irreconcilable. One has to choose and use tobacco and die or stay away from tobacco use and live a longer healthier life,” he concludes; that the WHO has been supportive of Government to generate the evidence needed to design strategies to address the challenges of tobacco use.
Other speakers included Commissioner Alhagie Sambujang Kinteh.