By Ndey Sowe
The Gambia Tobacco Industry Mapping Report has indicated that tobacco industry interference remains a critical component that undermines, delays and subverts tobacco control interventions.
The finding also included subversive activities meant to undermine tobacco control efforts in the Gambia over the last few years.
A Tobacco Control Committee in The Gambia on 6th November, 2020 established the tobacco industry monitoring team (TIM Team) in response to the need to monitor, document, counter and denounce tobacco industry tactics and strategies. The TIM Team as part of its activities mapped out the tobacco industry in the Gambia and their respective points of sale.
Speaking in an interview, Lamin Sonko, Program Manager RAID-The Gambia, said the exercise was conducted on 3rd and 4th February, 2021 and other findings were done thereafter on subversive activities of tobacco industry and development of the report. He said the objective of the mapping was to have first-hand information on the tobacco industry and its interference strategies and tactics in the Gambia.
“The report details tobacco manufacturing companies whose products are imported in the country, tobacco brand they produce and country of origin. It’s also details information on the tobacco companies/ business that are licensed to import tobacco related products in the country,” he highlighted.
Mr. Sonko said the report includes subversive activities of some of the importers, including given donations to private and public institutions after the emergence of COVID-19. He said the report also gives an insight of taxes paid by the tobacco importers in the Gambia for 2019 and 2020 fiscal year as well as the number of direct employments created by tobacco importers in the country.
“It also looked at the strategies they employ to sell their products, strengthen tobacco control at the national level and challenges for tobacco control in the country,” he revealed.
RAID is a French acronym for the African Network for Information and Action against Drugs. The agency was registered in 1993 and given the mandate to operate as civil society organisation. RAID has its head office situated in Kerewan Village, Lower Badibou District, North Bank Region and also its sub office in Banjul, of The Gambia.
The mapping exercise and development of this report was supported by the tobacco industry monitoring team members from the ministry of health, RAID-The Gambia, National Environment Agency, Association of Health Journalists, Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Finance, Gambia Bureau of Statistic and Gambia Revenue Authority.
Modou Njai, Director of Health Promotion and Education, called on tobacco industries to work closely with them and to follow their guidelines in terms tobacco control in The Gambia.
“The more we have our country to be tobacco free, the better for us and the heathier the population,” he said, while urging all and sundry to be part of the process.
Omar Badjie, Non-Communicable Disease Program Manager and National Focal Point for Tobacco Control at the Ministry of Health, said in the Gambia, tobacco is being imported and there are no manufactures.
“Those importers and retailers represent the tobacco industries in the Gambia, and we realized that there are series of interference going on ranging from the vehicles, color, …. t-shirts and some do sponsored events, and according to our Tobacco Act 2016, all these are prohibited,” he said.
Badjie advised the public to be vigilant and smart and try to come up with strategies to counter it. He said the strategies cannot be done without doing a mapping exercise to know exactly what they are doing in the country. This, he added, prompted them to have the exercise.