The tobacco cessation clinical guideline was held to make evidence-based treatment for tobacco use and dependence accessible to all healthcare professionals, to provide standardised and appropriate treatment for all tobacco users.
In her launching statement, Saffie Lowe-Ceesay, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said the complexities surrounding tobacco use, as well as the huge detrimental effects it has on social-economic development, required concerted action to be tackled from across the different sectors in government as well as the private sector institutions, individuals, communities and organisations including the United Nations System.
She said in The Gambia, tobacco use constitutes the most significant risk for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
Directly or indirectly, tobacco-induced cancer, disability, heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes among others and their complications place an unnecessary high burden on the meager resources for the health sector.
Despite the complications enumerated above, the prevalence of smoking in The Gambia still remains high, particularly among males and adolescents, and “the healthcare providers are not well trained and equipped to manage this problem effectively”, he stated.
Moreover, she added, most healthcare providers don’t seem to understand that treating tobacco dependence is more cost-effective than treating tobacco-related diseases.
According to her, reducing smoking prevalence is key in improving people’s health and reducing health inequalities in The Gambia.
She added that the development of smoking cessation clinical guidelines is part of an integrated national NCD programme of action that would contribute to reducing the smoking prevalence.
She noted that much has already been achieved in helping smokers quit, but much more still needed to be done.
For his part, Dr Ahmed E. Ogwell Ouma, WHO regional adviser on tobacco control, said The Gambia is the first country in the African continent where they formally launched the tobacco cessation clinical guidelines.
He explained that since 2013, The Gambia has had the fastest implementation of article 6 of the WHO convention on tobacco control taxation and “every year there is an increase”.
The Gambia is one country that is taking the obligation on article 6, he said, adding that they need to continue implementing it, which is a motivation for them to do better.
He said WHO is a member-state organisation and its work is equally based on what the governments would like them to do for them.
Momodou Gassama, WHO officer for health promotion, thanked ministry of health and the multi-sectorial working group for giving tobacco control the attention it deserves.
“The Gambia is already a success story for tobacco control,” he said.
He assured the gathering that the WHO is fully behind the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the government and the multi-sectorial working group.
Modou Njai, director of health promotion and education directorate, who chaired the ceremony, said “there is a bill on tobacco control coming up very soon”.