Gambia must wage war on tobacco use!

May 31, 2022, 10:41 AM

The number of young people involved in cigarette use in the country is increasing at an alarming rate. Annually, eight million people die from diseases caused by tobacco use globally, including about 890,000 from secondhand smoke exposure.

This figure is not only staggering but alarming especially; the involvement of new smokers and therefore The Gambia must wage a war to blunt the effects of tobacco among our teens.

Recent estimates shows that there were about 1·30 billion tobacco users globally in 2020, compared with 1·32 billion in 2015. Same figure indicates that 60 countries are now on track—versus 32 countries 2 years ago—to achieve the voluntary global target of a 30% reduction in tobacco use between 2010 and 2025.

It is in the news that the officials at the Ministry of Health Non-Communicable Unit under the Directorate of Health Promotion and Education of the Ministry of Health have raised concern with the alarming rate of school children aged (12-20) and youth involved in tobacco use mostly in public places.

In view of this reality, the Ministry expressed its resolve in enforcing and implementing the 2016 Tobacco Control Act (TCA).

Going round some of the hotels and restaurants in the hospitality industry and seeing the behavior of some of some of our youth leaves much to be desired.

Children as young as aged from 12 -17 years could be seen smoking ‘Shisha’ at public places without any limit or restriction on its use. It has even been a lifestyle, especially some who believe smoking these types of tobacco is a sign of high status over low status.

But what is really alarming is that an average Gambian male aged (25) to (65) years smokes about 10 sticks of cigarettes. And use of Shisha among school children aged (12 – 20) is about 8.4 %. Tobacco kills as it contains nicotine- an addictive substance, which burns at 1000o C – releasing toxins in smoke.

Cigarette smoke has 7,000 chemicals, 70 known carcinogens/harmful substances (tar, cadmium, lead, cyanide, nitrogen oxides, benzo(a)pyrine, carbon monoxide, vinyl chloride, acetaldehyde.

In essence, the burden of smoking cigarettes far outweighs its benefits.

The Gambia became a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on December 17, 2007.

This automatically enables the country to prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces, public places, and on all means of public transport.

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