Delivering a statement on behalf of the minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ngaly Abubacar Sambou, the regional health director for North Bank west, underscored the importance government attaches to the protection and maintenance of health for its citizenry. He said the celebration of the World Tobacco Day is aimed at highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

Sambou noted that the government of The Gambia under the visionary leadership of President Jammeh has recognised the importance of tobacco control.This, he said was manifested in government’s efforts to address taxation, pricing, advertising, packaging, warnings, and the prohibition of smoking in public places and that the initiatives were strongly supported by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of which most of African countries in the region ratified.

He however noted that tobacco use is the second largest cause of death globally (after hypertension) and that it is consequently responsible for killing one in ten adults worldwide. “This day is set aside to draw particular attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing and smoke on women and girls. The World Health Assembly created World No- Tobacco Day in 1985 to draw global attention to the tobacco epidemic and its lethal effects. This provides an opportunity to highlight specific tobacco control messages and to provide adherence to the WHO Frame Work Convention on tobacco control,”Sambou remarked.

He disclosed that tobacco use is the number one preventable epidemic that the health community faces. This, he noted, was made possible through the development of tools and evidence-based guidelines not only to support but also monitor the implementation process.
He therefore called on people to collectively support government and WHO in their endeavour to reduce global threats of disease and death caused by tobacco, by protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

Sambou finally thanked World Health Organization for giving them the support in the implementation of tobacco control measures at all levels of government. The deputy governor of NBR, Abou Njie, commended RAID The Gambia and its development partners for commemorating the day with the objective to awake people to be fully aware of the negative effects of tobacco and its by products. He noted that globally tobacco continues to kill many able family heads, youths and women. Therefore, he stated, celebrating the day means to take stock of the achievements and to ask the citizens to join the global crusade of saying no to tobacco.

Momodu Gassama, a representative of WHO Country representative, commended RAID The Gambia for their untiring support to WHO in advocating zero tolerance to smoking and urged young people to emulate this good example. He said women are major target of opportunity for the tobacco industry. “The tobacco companies have launched marketing campaigns that represent cigarette smoking as feminine and fashionable, to counter the public consensus that smoking is socially unacceptable and unhealthy,” he noted.

He went on: “The increasing prevalence of tobacco smoking and other forms of tobacco consumption by women and young girls is alarming”. On the other hand Gassama said data from countries of the African region show that tobacco use prevalence ranges from 4.6-36.6% for adolescent boys. This situation, he indicated is also true for The Gambia, where results of Global Youth Tobacco Survey conducted in 2007 showed a 24.4% prevalence rate of smoking among students aged between 13 and 15 years, those attending grades six, seven and eight. “Interestingly, some of these smokers have fallen victims to tobacco use due to various forms of tobacco marketing.

World No Tobacco Day 2010 is therefore designed to draw particular attention to the harmful effects of tobacco marketing towards women and girls. It will also highlight the need for the parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which include The Gambia, to ban all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, as will as to protect exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke,” Gassama finally remarked.

Also speaking at the occasion Sambujang Conteh, director of RAID said United Nations and WHO have agreed to put aside 31st May to reflect on more than 5 million people who die every year of tobacco related diseases which The Gambia is not exception. He said The Gambia has registered more than 25 thousand young people who are mentally ill in the last 8 years.

He disclosed that Research reveals that all those people have started with cigarettes smoking; it is our job to sensitise the community about the danger related to tobacco use. “The Gambia signs the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the 15th of June 2007 by the National Assembly, assented by the president on the 29th of October 2007. Since then, various interventions have been taken by the government, WHO and RAID office, for The Gambia to become a tobacco-free nation.

Chief Fafanding Kinteh of Lower Baddibu and Tamba Kinteh, chief executive officer of Kerewan Area Council, noted that the day would help the younger generation to vigorously discuss the impact of smoking. The officers assured of their continuous resolve to help RAID in educating and informing the public about the dangers of cigarettes marketing.