By: Momodou Justice Darboe, Association of Health Journalists (AOHJ)
The Gambia has carved an enviable position for itself in the global tobacco control arena but the increase in non-communicable diseases has gravely concerned the country’s health authorities. According to official statistics, about 400,000 people in the Gambia are tobacco users, which is 16.7% of the country’s nearly two million population.
The Gambia’s health authorities have been presented with another line of tobacco-related challenges as Shisha use increasingly gain popularity among the country’s youth and evolved in usage.
Health officials reported that Shisha jars are now being used to smoke drugs and other intoxicants.
But the urgency to intensify the Gambia’s tobacco battle has been underlined by the trending of people of school-going age towards tobacco and Shisha use as e-cigarettes continue to gain a foothold in the global tobacco market.
The Nigeria-based Management Health Sciences (MHS) is currently bankrolling the implementation of three key provisions of the Gambia’s 2016 Tobacco Control Act as the country races against time to prevent more tobacco-induced deaths and pressures on the country’s already challenged healthcare system.
The three provisions, being implemented under the Tobacco Project initiative by the Non-Communicable Diseases Unit of the Gambia’s health ministry, seek to support the enforcement of the Act’s provisions on the use of graphic health warnings, ban on display of tobacco products, tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, and sale of tobacco products to and by minors.
According to the Gambia’s Deputy Director of Health Education and Promotion, Mr. Sanjally Trawally, the Gambia had leapt forward in terms of tobacco control.
“The Gambia has gone very far in terms of tobacco control. At every stage or any part of the world, Gambia has been mapped as one of the best-performing countries in terms of tobacco control. We’ve produced one of the best tobacco control Acts in the whole world. I think Gambia is one of the best-awarded countries in terms of tobacco control awards,” Mr. Trawally, also the program manager for Gambia’s Non-Communicable Disease Unit, informed health journalists in a press conference recently.
He, however, stressed that these feathers in Gambia’s cap in the tobacco control arena should not give any room for complacency and his point was reiterated by the Program Manager of Gambia’s Non-Communicable Diseases Unit, Omar Badjie also the National Tobacco Control Focal Point at the country’s health ministry.
“We all know tobacco is so harmful and nowadays, we are seeing a lot of youths engaging in tobacco use, especially Shisha and other forms of electronic cigarettes. We are seeing an increase in non-communicable diseases by the day because risk factors are on the increase,” Badjie lamented.
He explained that the implementation of the Tobacco Project has now entered its third month and that the project has already conducted a lot of activities in conformity with the objectives of the Tobacco Policy Action managed by MSH. Senior health ministry official Fatoumatta Komma disclosed that the Tobacco Project was the second of its kind funded by MSH.