By Olimatou Coker
Tobacco consumers in The Gambia spend a staggering D5 million on tobacco products annually, health authorities disclosed to journalists during a press conference held recently on the status of tobacco control in the country.
The event was held at the central medical stores in Kotu.
Omar Badjie, Programme manager of non-commutable diseases, said annually around 8 million people die from diseases caused by tobacco use including about 890,000 from secondhand smoke exposure.
Badjie said the burden of disease from tobacco is increasingly concentrated in lower income countries in the world.
According to him, 16.7% of Gambians are exposed to tobacco and its harmful effects.
“This shows that an average Gambian male aged 25- to 65 years smoke about 10 sticks of cigarettes while shisha usage in The Gambia is 8.4%”
He said the reason why cigarette kills is that it contains nicotine, an addictive substance such as carcinogens, tar, cadmium, lead, cyanide, nitrogen oxides, benzo pyridine, carbon monoxide, vinyl chloride, acetaldehyde and damages tissues throughout the body, clogs arteries, causing blood clots.
He added that the economic cost of tobacco increased the burden of non-communicable diseases, the cost of provision of health care and the burden of these costs falls on families, the public purse, and employers\ insurers.
Sanjally Trawally, deputy director health promotion and education, said the 2016 Tobacco Control Act is considered one of the best tobacco acts.
“To control tobacco, we the stakeholders are employing several strategies and one of them is educating the masses,” he said.