Gambia at 17th World Tobacco, Health conference

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Gambia have been represented at the high-level World Conference on tobacco or health held in Cape Town, South Africa from 7- 9 March on the theme: Uniting the world for a tobacco free generation. The conference assembled more than 2,000 delegates representing more than 125 countries that attended the first conference hosted in Africa. 

Researchers, academics, non-governmental organisations, civil society, scientists, healthcare professionals and public officials working in all aspects of tobacco control have united in Cape Town to join forces in the realisation of a Tobacco free generation.

Karamo Conteh, who represented The Gambia at the youth pre- conference and presented an abstract at the conference, emphasised the important role young people can play in the fight against tobacco in Gambia, Africa and the world.

Mr. Conteh, a senior programme officer and finance controller of African Network for Information and Action Against Drug (RAID-The GAMBIA) said tobacco use still poses serious challenge to the people of The Gambia and their dream to attain their right to health despite all the efforts of tobacco control advocates especially among the youth folks.

He said studies have shown that the use of tobacco is still on the increase in The Gambia especially among the youth.

According to him, the single most preventable cause of death and disease in The Gambia is due to tobacco use, saying several diseases due to which most people die such as cancer, heart diseases, high blood pressures and chest infections are found to be mainly or directly related to tobacco use and related life style habits.

Yahya Manneh, head of policy planning and research at The Gambia Revenue Authority also presented a paper on tobacco taxation policy reforms in The Gambia and their benefits to tobacco control. His presentation assembles key stakeholders in tobacco control around the world as The Gambia is leading as a successful sample country in tobacco tax reforms.

World health Organisation’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the tobacco industry is targeting low- and middle-income countries, saying every year, tobacco use kills about 7 million people and many more people develop serious illnesses such as cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and heart disease. “This tears families apart and has an entirely preventable impact on health systems. Tobacco also costs the global economy more than US$ 1 trillion annually in health spending and lost productivity. This is unacceptable. We could help offset this cost if all governments raised excise taxes by about 80 US cents per pack of cigarette,” he said.

Dr. Aaron Motsolaedi, who officially opened the conference said, “Our continent of Africa is specifically being targeted by the tobacco industry. We have a growing and youthful population. The youth are special targets. The main purpose of the tobacco industry is to maximize profits at the expense of often vulnerable people. Our fight now is not just against tobacco, it’s a fight for humanity,” Dr. Aaron said.

Philanthropist Michael Bloomberg announced on Wednesday March 7 that he would spend $20 million (16.13 million euros) to launch a watchdog to detect and expose deceptive practices by the tobacco industry.

The monitor, to be called stopping tobacco organisations and products (STOP), would seek to counter the industry’s influence by publishing reports detailing pro-smoking activities and tactics.

It will also support non-profit organizations and government to resist interference from the tobacco industry.