By Madi S. Njie
At least two months into the Enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act 2019, The Gambia government has designated all public places as non-smoking environment.
Deputising for the Minister of Health during World Tobacco Day 2019, the Director of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Modou Njie said the law bans smoking in public places, including restaurants, hotels, garages, among others. With effect, all public places, including police stations, health facilities, are declared smoke-free environment institutions.
He assured that the Tobacco Control laws will be fully implemented, while commending his Minister- Dr. Mamadou Lamin Samateh for endorsing their proposal to facilitate effective service delivery.
He said “children under 18 should not be sent to buy cigarette; shopkeepers should not sell single sticks of cigarette. They should only sell per packet of cigarette. We want all places to be smoke free and we want to start from ourselves,” he said.
On December 13th 2019, The Gambia joined the rest of the World to celebrate World tobacco Day, on the Theme: “Choose Health, No Tobacco.” The event was held at the Central Medical Store in Kotu.
The 2006 Tobacco Control Act, which came into Force on 1 October 2019 is meant to ensure a Tobacco free Gambia. The Act imposed band on public smoking, tobacco advertisement and smoking in public spaces.
Momodou Gassama, WHO Communication Officer in The Gambia, in his remarks commended The Gambia for championing the global crusade against tobacco.
He said a multi-sectoral working group committee comprising all relevant Government sectors was set up to combat Tobacco use, resulting in the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act.
Tobacco was responsible for the deaths in the US and in the 1980s some families were bold enough to sue tobacco companies for being responsible for their deaths of their loved ones.
World no-tobacco day was first commemorated in 1988 as endorsed by member states of the world health organization, the rationale being to draw international attention to the dangers of tobacco use and to mobilize action against it.
He said currently 1.1 billion people are using tobacco, 80% percent of which are in the developing countries. He added that 8 million people are dying out of smoking, of which 7 million die out of direct smoking; while 1.2 million die due to second hand smoking.
Dwelling further he explained that when you smoke in a house, or in streets, the smoke remains in the air for five hours, and can harm anyone who inhales it.
He said World No Tobacco Day is celebrated 31 May every year, but that does not matter, adding that what is important is celebrating the day.
Commenting on the harmful effects of smoking, Mr Gassama said the “Impact of Smoking in the Heart” was the Theme for last year’s celebration. Adding: “Tobacco smoking breaks your air sacks, causing respiratory problems. 2/3 of lung cancer deaths are caused by Tobacco,” Mr Gassama said. He said there are more than 7000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.
He also said good numbers of children are smoking because they are exposed to smoking at home by their parents. “Tobacco and Health are irreconcilable,” he said, advising people to choose health over tobacco.
He also said WHO has been supporting the government to generate evidence needed and design strategy to address challenges.
Other speakers included Commissioner Alhagie Sambujang Kinteh.