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Gambia declares all public places smoke free

Dec 18, 2019, 2:08 PM | Article By: Madi S. Njie

Barely two months into the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act 2019, Modou Njie, director of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has declared all public places in The Gambia as non-smoking environment.

Speaking during events marking World Tobacco Day 2019, Mr. Njie said the law bans smoking in public places, including restaurants, hotels and garages among others. He added that henceforth, all public places are declared smoke free environments, including police stations, health facilities and all public institutions.

He assured that the tobacco control laws will be fully implemented, while commending his Health Minister Dr. Mamadou Lamin Samateh for endorsing the proposal to facilitate effective service delivery.

He said: “Children under 18 should not be sent to buy cigarette; shopkeepers should not sell single stick of cigarettes. They should only sell per packet of cigarette. We want all places to be smoke free and we want to start from ourselves,” he further declared.

The Gambia on 13 December 2019 joined the rest of the world in celebrating 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 imposes ban 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.

He said the process of tobacco control started in 1988, in the USA, when people started suing tobacco companies for killing their family members; which is why World No Tobacco is celebrated. He added that this was at a time when the developing countries were just consumers, while the developed ones were producers.

He said currently 1.1 billion people are using tobacco, 80% percent of whom are in the developing countries. He added that eight million people die out of smoking, of which seven million die out of direct smoking; while 1.2 million die due to second hand smoking.

Dwelling further, he explained that when one smokes in a house, or in streets, the smoke remains in the air for five hours, and revealed that the smoke can harm anyone who inhales it.

He said World No Tobacco Day is celebrated 31 May of every year, adding that date does not matter. He said that what was important is celebrating the day.

Commenting on the harmful effects of smoking, Mr Gassama recalled that the “Impact of Smoking in the Heart” was the theme for last year’s celebration. “Tobacco smoking breaks your air sacks, causing respiratory problems. Two out of three of lung cancer deaths are caused by Tobacco,” Mr Gassama said; noting that smoking causes 7000 different diseases.

He also said a good number of children smoke because they are exposed to smoking at home by their parents. “Tobacco and Health are irreconcilable.”

 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.