Jun 5, 2009, 9:20 AM
The NGO-CSO Network on tobacco control in The Gambia is
currently holding a three-day strategic planning workshop for its members at
the President's International Awards Hall in Bakau and there is some very good
work taking place.
Speaking at the occasion, the chairman of the Network, Sambujang Conteh, said the idea of creating such an institution emerged following the recognition of the fact that no single entity can win the war against tobacco. This is a very important realisation. What is needed to tackle the scourge of smoking is a multi-agency approach. Government through various departments have a huge role to play as does the media, private enterprise and the general population.
Mr. Conteh recently stated that the NGO- CSO network on tobacco control in The Gambia has a vision of transforming The Gambia into a tobacco free society saying, "this trouble of tobacco is everywhere in our society. Even those who abuse or use it agree that it's harmful to their health but they cannot drop the habit of tobacco consumption."
This is certainly true but it does not mean that we must be any less straightforward in our advertising and education on the harmful effects of tobacco. The government has a readymade opportunity to generate tax revenue by increasing the tax on cigarettes. This will serve a dual purpose. It will put the drug beyond the means of many people and the revenue generated could be put into education and tobacco control.
What we must never forget is that those who smoke are
addicted to a drug. It may be a socially acceptable drug but it is a drug.
Nicotine is the main source of addiction in cigarettes and some studies have
shown that it is even more addictive than heroin which has been decimating the lives
of people for many years in various parts of the world.
As we should recognise smokers as addicts then we should ask are there signs of classic addict behaviour such as stealing to support the habit or denying themselves or their families sustenance or support in order to smoke? How much of our petty crime can be explained by people who engage in petty theft to feed their habit?
If we all work together in this country we can achieve the goal of a smoke free Gambia. It a goal that is worth achieving and will vastly improve the health and lives of many people.