The Gambia Government in collaboration with the United Nations-World Health Organization and other stakeholders have on Wednesday 19 February 2014 launched a new tobacco control campaign to eradicate tobacco smoking and its related epidemic diseases in the west African nation of the Gambia.
The new initiative which calls for a mass media campaign on the theme A SMOKE FREE GAMBIA aims to help government combat tobacco smoking and its related vices officials said. The program which brought together different stakeholders from across the country was championed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Campaigners undertake to remind Gambians of the repercussions on smokers as well as people around them often considered as second hand smokers. Tobacco epidemic, according to the officials at the launching, kill nearly 6 million people each year. More than 600,000 non-smokers die of breeding in second hand smoking globally. Officials warn unless we act swiftly the epidemic will kill more than 8 million people each year by 2030, and more than 80 percent of those people affected will be among people living in low and middle income countries.
WHO representative Charles Moses hailed the Gambia government for taking appropriate steps and its achievement on the fight against tobacco menace in the country. “I heard about the Gambia in her proactive actions in tobacco control. This information came from a friend who was a campaigner against tobacco” he said. “The Gambia is one of the countries leading the tobacco control campaign. We will certainly get additional support from others interested in this campaign. I am also very happy because the media is with us in this campaign and am sure they will make sure the information of what we are doing will reach people.”
Speaking at the launching ceremony at Paradise Suits Hotel in Kololi, The Gambia Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Mr Omar Sey, disclosed “The Gambia is described by WHO as the leading country doing well in tobacco control. Today marks yet another giant step in this battle”. According to the Gambian Minister the event is timely, and the statistic has shown a high level of smoke consumption in the Gambia. “After tougher legislature and pressure from the developed countries many tobacco companies today shifted to the developing countries like the Gambia making us the most vulnerable from huge investments of these companies, in order to secure operational licenses”, the Minister lamented. Statistic revealed cigarette smoking is on the increase among both adolescent and adult population of the Gambia. The Health Minister concluded by calling on Gambians to take urgent measures to address the effect of tobacco.
Solar Odeger, Communication Consultant for World Long Foundation called on stake holders to adopt government policies in the fight against tobacco. Edrissa Samba Sallah, a tobacco campaigner, said the fight will be more effective considering the level of education of the people. He also appealed for promotional materials helping him in his campaign.
The Deputy Director of Health at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Muhamed Saho, called on the media to intensify the campaign as they are the key partners. “We will intensify the campaign and call for more resource for its sustainability.”