Oct 31, 2011, 12:12 PM
The Gambia yesterday joined the rest of the world to commemorate World No-Tobacco Day with the World Health Organization (WHO) country office, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) and the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) joining forces to mark the day at Brufut Lower Basic School in Kombo North.
Speaking at the ceremony, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Momodou Lamin Ceesay, said the theme for this year is “Tobacco Industry’s Interference”, noting that “the campaign will focus on the need to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly aggressive attempts to undermine the World Health Organization’s framework convention on Tobacco Control because of the serious public health implications associated with tobacco use”.
PS Ceesay told the gathering that the global tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year, of which more than 5 million are users or ex-users and more than 600,000 are non-users who are second-hand or passive smokers.
“Unless we act now rather than later, it will kill up to 8 million people by the year 2030, of which more than 80% will be those living in low-and middle-income countries including The Gambia”.
PS Ceesay added: “The industry’s efforts to undermine the treaty continue on other fronts including attempts made by countries to ban smoking in public and enclosed places as well as the banning of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”
According to PS Ceesay, this year’s World No-Tobacco Day commemoration is aimed at educating policymakers and the gentle public about the tobacco industry’s aggressive and harmful tactics to damage public health, adding that article 5-3 of the convention states that “in setting and implementing public health policies with respect to tobacco control, shall act to protect these policies from commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national laws”.
PS Ceesay said this act of parliament, titled “Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Act”, was ratified by the National Assembly and accented to by the President.
He therefore urged all ministries to continue to enforce the declaration of no smoking in all workplaces under their jurisdiction.
For his part, the WHO Country Representative, Dr Thomas Sukuwa, said the WHO annually presents this prestigious Award to outstanding individuals, institutions or organizations from around the world in recognition of their contributions to tobacco control.
Dr Sukuwa told the gathering that “The Gambia has a track record of winning this Award 7 times since 2000”.
“We are proud that The Gambia has a cohort of distinguished anti-tobacco activists, but we must be prepared to tackle head-on the many challenges that lie ahead in maintaining and sustaining these achievements,” he said.
The challenges are complex, one of these complexities is tackling, as individuals, organizations, institutions and governments, the deceitful acts of tobacco industries, he said, adding that this is all the more reason why the WHO is awakening global attention, in this year’s World No-Tobacco Day, to some of the deceitful and detrimental acts tobacco companies are employing in marketing their lethal products.
Madam Sarjo Kassama, head of the school, expressed happiness about the event saying the day was remarkable for her school, since tobacco is very harmful to health, and finally thanked the WHO and partners.
Other speakers at the occasion were Alhagie Idrissa Samba Sallah and Muhammed Jassey.