By Adama Tine
The Non Communicable Disease Unit (NCD) of the Ministry of health is implementing a year-long grant from the Tobacco Policy Action Fund for Africa (ToPAFA) to reduce tobacco use through enforcement of tobacco control laws in The Gambia. A ceremony was held on Wednesday at the Central Medical Store in Kotu to brief members of the media on the laws that banned the use of tobacco products in the country.
Sainabou B. Cham, program officer NCD Unit, said the law says every person has right to a tobacco smoke-free environment but the person consuming it should ensure that he/she does not expose another person to tobacco smoke.
She added that all forms of tobacco advertisement, promotion or sponsorship including cross-border are prohibited and as a result, a person shall not initiate any tobacco advertisement, promotion and/or sponsorship.
However she said, a person shall not import, manufacture, distribute, sell or offer for sale a tobacco product unless the unit packet and package of tobacco product or outside packaging and labeling of such product conforms to the packaging and labeling requirements prescribed by the ministry.
“Text and pictures advertising health warning shall appear together and shall occupy no less than 75% of the packet display. All tobacco products should conform to the regulations,” she explained.
“When it comes to tobacco control there is no way we can move forward without the media, so engagement with the media is a continuous process because during the enforcement, we went to hotels and restaurants where we seized lots of Shishaa bottles but after few weeks they started again so our work with the media would never stop,” she also said.
“Sales of single cigarette sticks is one of the biggest challenges we have right now. We know some shopkeepers are not selling single cigarette sticks to random people except their loyal customers. We also understand that people selling Café Touba are the ones mostly selling single cigarette sticks. We want a total stop with immediate effect,” she noted.
She narrated that: “we feel before taking people to police stations, courts or prisons it is better to have engagements at least at the grass roots to know what is happening then we believe they would not be caught by the law.”
“Youths are our primary target because most of the smokers today started from youthful age. We also want to meet shopkeeper because we have noticed that the selling of single cigarette is still going on even though it is unlawful,” she concluded.