For once, the authorities seem to be now serious about fighting the menace of tobacco or the very act of smoking itself, especially public smoking.
For many years smoking has been the subject of many scientific researches and international concern, not least because of its connection with many serious diseases.
Smoking is linked to cancer, heart disease and bronchitis among others and is not helpful to many other health conditions rampant in our country.
The recent measures announced in fighting public smoking and controlling the indiscriminate access to tobacco in the Gambia is therefore a very welcome initiative for which we commend the authorities. But how effective can these measures be enforced?
Unlike in the advanced world, one of the biggest problems in fighting smoking and the use of tobacco in The Gambia is ignorance of the consequences of smoking despite all the sensitization surrounding it. If anything, the act seems to be increasing especially among the young.
Many young people pick this dangerous habit out of ignorance, peer influence or exposure through parents and other adults close to them. Young smokers often age to become heavily addicted adults that find life boring without a fag.
So if the label ‘Smoking Kills’ on cigarette packets is not enough to scare would-be smokers, the next line of action is either to ban trade in tobacco (unlikely because of the huge commercial interests) or make it very hard to get, example making it terrifically expensive.
In the absence of all these, the authorities have a big job in their hands to enforce the new measures announced. To ban the selling of cigarettes per stick is only going to help shop keepers finish their stock of cigarettes faster than before.
However, and on the positive side, if they cannot buy cigarettes per stick, people with low income, especially young people may have to make a choice between smoking and a drink or piece of food.
Another area that can be difficult to enforce is stopping people from smoking in public places.
Again, whereas this may sound easy, it’s almost going to cause a friction between the police and offenders. In fact, there could be more offenders than the police can handle at a time especially at music concerts or sports events where they even struggle to apprehend marijuana smokers let alone cigarette smokers who would think they are not committing any offense. These new measures to curb public smoking and discouraging smoking in general must therefore go with effective public sensitization. The focus should be to let people clearly understand that smoking definitely kills. Good luck to Gambia’s anti-smoking campaign!