Worries escalate over delay on implementation of Tobacco Control Act

Friday, December 21, 2018

Public worries are escalating over the delay in the implementation of the 2016 National Tobacco Control Act which was passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by former President, Yahya Jammeh.

The Act is meant to control the demand and supply of tobacco and tobacco related products, implement the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) and for connected matters. The Gambia is a signatory to the FCTC and it is an obligation for state parties to fully implement the treaty by domesticating it within its national laws.

Since the Gambia Tobacco Control Act became law, little has been done to enforce its provisions. After   passing the Act in 2016, legislators recommended that the   Ministry of Health and Social Welfare should conduct three months nationwide sensitisation for the public to understand its provisions. It was gathered that the sensitisation halted for some months due to political impasse that the country experienced immediately after the 2016 Presidential elections.

 The other factor that contributed to the delay in the implementation of the Act was inadequate resource for effective sensitisation to take place, despite all the efforts by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.  It was discovered that only RAID – The Gambia; a leading tobacco control advocacy organisation was able to embark on sensitisations to the seven administrative regions in which security agencies were also targeted to help in the enforcement process.

 The   unexpected change of ministers by the government especially at the Minister of Health also caused a set back because it took time for the new minister to understand   the realities and challenges of the Tobacco Control Act.

 Senior government officials assured that the political will and commitment of the government is there but the delay towards the implementation and enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act is the major hindrance towards the full implementation of the Act.

Specifically, in contravention of provisions of the Act,   people still smoke in public places without being apprehended.

 Tobacco Focal Person at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Omar Badjie, told this reporter in an interview that his Ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Justice for the actual finalisation of the commencement order for the full implementation to take place, noting that the process would be completed before the end of December this year.

He pointed out that once the finalisation order of the Act for its effective implementation and enforcement is completed, the Minister will announce a date of implementation and enforcement of the Act and the public would be notified accordingly.

 He assured that by January 2019, full implementation of the Act will commence across the country.

 Mr. Badjie disclosed that the Health Ministry and partners have conducted series of sensitisations for the past months and the key stakeholders are being sensitised and the sensitisation will be an   on-going process. “Government is fully committed to the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2016.”

 Tijan Jeng, a resident of Serrekunda expressed dismay over the delay of the new Tobacco Control Act, noting that people are being exposed to second hand smoking everyday, which poses high risk to the population.

 He appealed to government to ensure that the Act is enforced and empower the security to fully enforce the law to the letter.

 Fatou Jammeh from Farafenni said in most cases, government would pass laws but implementation is always a problem, citing the ban on smoking in public places as an example. “Since the ban was made the Act is still not effective. People smoke in public places without facing any penalty.”

 She pointed out that smoking in public places is causing more harm than good, adding that because of Tobacco, non –communicable diseases are on the increase in the country. “Preventive measures should be looked at if not government will spend lot of money on people’s health.”

 Sainabou Jawneh, a resident of Brikama said delay in the implementation and enforcement of the new Act is not the least welcome, noting that the delay in enforcement will cost more damages and urged people to change their attitudes towards smoking as it is harmful to their health.

 Demba Bah from Bakau tasked the Ministry of Health to fast track the implementation and enforcement of the Acts.

Author: Momodou Faal