Gambia Launches Tobacco Control Act 2016 Celebrates World No Tobacco Day
July 21, 2017
By Momodou Faal
The Gambia on Tuesday launched the Tobacco Control Act 2016 at a colourful ceremony held at the Arch 22 in Banjul.
The event, which was presided over by the minister of Health and Social Welfare Saffie Lowe Ceesay, also witnessed the celebrations of World No Tobacco Awards, conferred on the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and the National Assembly.
The two accolades, which were presented by the World Health Organisation, were in recognition of the two institutions' efforts in the fight against tobacco control in the country.
Addressing the gathering, Minister Lowe-Ceesay averred that in The Gambia, tobacco use constitutes the most significant risk factor for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as tobacco induced cancers, disability, heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes just to name a few.
She added that their complications place an unnecessary high burden on meager resources of the health sector.
The prevalence of smoking in The Gambia, Health minister observed, still remains high particularly among males and adolescents.
"Just recently a lot of young boys and girls do engaged in the use of Shisha. Reducing smoking prevalence is key in improving people's health and reducing health inequalities in The Gambia.
Minister Lowe-Ceesay pointed out that effective implementation of the Tobacco Control Act 2016 is timely in reducing the smoking prevalence in The Gambia, saying much has already been achieved in tobacco control measures in the Country.
However, she noted that much more still needs to be done, thus the need for comprehensive act on tobacco control.
The Health minister recalled that her ministry is given the mandate of declaring to the start date of implementation of Tobacco Control Act 2016 and also taking note of the appeal of then the National Assembly Members to conduct a three-month massive community sensitization on the act before its full implementation.
The sensitization campaign, she went on, will be up to September, adding that the implementation of the act will be in October, which will be officially communicated to the general public accordingly.
She thus appealed to the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs for his consideration of 5% tax allocation from tobacco products to the ministry of Health and Social Welfare for the implementation of Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control programmes as stated in the National Tobacco Control Policy 2013- 2018.
"Effective tobacco control laws such as ours is (sic) associated with higher levels of success in other Countries and it is anticipated that The Gambia will equally benefit from experience when fully implemented. The ministry of Health and Social Welfare will 100% support the implementation of the National Tobacco Control ACT ,2016, in collaboration with the Muti-Sectoral team, especially the Public Health officers , Environmental inspectors, police officers and custom officers and others as stated in Section 26 Subsection (2) of the Tobacco Control Act 2016," she added.
For his part, Professor Jean Marie Dangou, the WHO Country Representative affirmed that The Gambia has a cause to celebrate the great achievements, which she added, clearly demonstrates that the governments, peoples and institutions in the African continent are contributing meaningfully to the global efforts to control tobacco use.
The move, he went on, is not a surprise as The Gambia has always been in the forefront in tobacco control; having won this prestigious awards 9 times since 2000.
Professor Dangou pointed out that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and the National Assembly are the winners of this years, saying the WHO Girector General Special Award, regarded as the highest honour, was won by only two candidates in the entire world; The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs of The Republic of The Gambia and His Excellency, Mr. Jagat Prakash Nadda, union minister for Health and Family Welfare in the Republic of India.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, he added, is being honoured for its exemplary tobacco taxation policy; shifting from a weight-based tax system to one based on stick of cigarettes which has yielded extra revenue for government and at the same time reduced tobacco importation and consumption.
Dr. Jim Arinaitwe, centre manager, Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA) commended the government of The Gambia for the giant strive it has made in the fight against tobacco control and prevention.
He added that tobacco smoke does not only affect the smokers but also non-smokers and as a result, causes second hand smoking.