By Adama Tine
Seyfo Singateh, Senior Program Officer for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) at the Ministry of Health (MoH) has revealed that in 2018 The Gambia recorded 16,000 deaths on NCDs, accounting for 34% of deaths, mostly mortalities occurring from cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes, with major risk factors being tobacco use, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.
Singhateh made the revelation during a presentation on NCD quarterly media briefing on Friday 23 July 2021 at the Central Medical Stores in Kotu.
He added that the ministry of health in partnership with Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa embarked on the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Act 2016 with their interest area mainly being the smoke free law.
He stated that in 2016 the government of The Gambia enacted a comprehensive Tobacco Control Act with key provisions being labeled and amongst them was the provision on smoke free law that bans smoking in public places, work places and public transport.
Sanjally Trawally, deputy director of Health Promotion and Education said in order to control tobacco in the country, the ministry came up with several strategies with one of them being educating the public. However, he added that upon realizing that educating the public to understand the danger associated with smoking would not be enough, they came up with an enforcement strategy act across the county to ensure that the 2016 Act is implemented.
Ousman Badjie, Program Manager (NCD) in his presentation said smoking kills 33-50% of all those who use it by an average of 15 years prematurely, adding that the national prevalence step survey report on tobacco use in The Gambia in 2010 was 16.7% showing alarming figures of 31% and 12.8% for male and female respectively.
He added that an average Gambian male age 25 to 65 years smoke about 10 sticks of cigarettes per day while the use of Shisha among school children aged 12 – 20 is about 8.4 %.
“Tobacco kills as a result of an addictive substance it contains called Nicotine while cigarette burns at 1000o C – releasing toxins in smoke,” Badjie revealed.
According to him, 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) as it damages tissues throughout the body, clogs arteries and causes blood clots/bleeding.
Elaborating on the cost of tobacco, Badjie said annually health care costs are higher for smokers and the burden of these costs falls on families, public purse and employers/insurers.
He added that illness is a major precipitating cause of poverty and impacts negatively on sustainable development as 16.7% of 2.2 million is 376,400 x 10 = 3,674,000 sticks.
“Per person D40.00 is spent per day taking the lower limit of D4 per stick costing a collective of D14, 696, 000 per day spent on cigarettes by current smokers,” he disclosed.
A non-communicable disease is a noninfectious health condition that cannot be spread from person to person. It also lasts for a long period of time. This is also known as a chronic disease. A combination of genetic, physiological, lifestyle, and environmental factors can cause these diseases.