By Sarjo Camara-Singateh

The ministry of health and social welfare in collaboration with the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA), yesterday, 17 March, 2016, concluded a two day orientation with health Journalists on tobacco usage and its related use that affect the health of the people. The training was held at the Chamsys Hotel.

Tobacco is one of the few openly available commercial products that are virtually unregulated in terms of its contents and emissions.  Approximately one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco accounting for one in ten adult deaths (1-10)

The director of health promotion and education, Mr. Momodou Njai described tobacco smoking as dangerous and thus the support of everyone is needed to fight against it. He urged people to change their attitude towards tobacco smoking as it affects their health and that of others.

While thanking the CTCA for choosing Gambia to take part in this training, Njai said the Gambia does not grow tobacco but is ‘seen as an illicit trade for tobacco’ and thus the need for all to join the campaign against tobacco.

He said they have a close collaboration with the centre as currently the Gambia is sitting on the steering committee of the centre.

Jannifer Kalule, Technical Advisor Communication & Advocacy CTCA, said tobacco control is not an easy job compared to other public health issues.  She noted that there are 1.3 billion smokers in the world, and the prevalence of tobacco use among the youth in Africa is around 8-24% among males and 5-30% among females. She noted that 13,000 persons die daily due to tobacco and globally one dies every six seconds.

She said dealing with tobacco control means competing with powers like the producers and traders, who are rich and have lots of influence over the citizens. According to her, tobacco is the cause of many non-communicable diseases affecting the lives of people. She however recognized the effort of the health ministry and the government in drafting a bill on tobacco control.

Jennifer explained that the expected outcome of the training is an indicative media campaign plan and a road map for tobacco control in the Gambia. She said they are also expecting a commitment from the media practitioners to support tobacco control.

Momodou Gassama, the WHO communication specialist said they have to reflect on the statistics of the dangers in tobacco smoking. He noted that they need strength and skills to change the status quo. He further stated that concerted efforts are needed to tackle the problem. According to Mr. Gassama, WHO estimates that smoking causes about 71% of lung cancer, 42% of chronic respiratory diseases and nearly 10% of cardiovascular diseases. He noted that one stick of cigarette contains 4000 (four thousand) chemicals including 50 of which are cancerous.

The training was chaired by the deputy director of health promotion and education, Mr, Sanjally Trawally who described the media as effective in their advocacy strategy. He said media plays an important role in reaching the masses.