The network on tobacco control
Friday, August 08, 2008
At the end of a three-day strategic planning workshop, the CSO - NGO network on tobacco control in The Gambia, a newly constituted front against the scourge of tobacco, held a press conference, last Friday, at the premises of the President International Award Scheme.
The members sought to share with the media the result of their three-day deliberation, coming up with a series of recommendations and strategies they intend to employ in the execution of their mission.
Speaking at the occasion, the secretary general of the network, who is also the speaker of the National Youth Parliament - one of the key partners in the alliance - Honorable Lamin F Bojang, said that tobacco was popular, and that the industry was powerful and organized. Honorable Bojang argued that the effect of its consumption 'on the life of our people is beyond measure.' To this end, he said, only a concerted effort is needed to address the problem.
He disclosed that the composition of their network presents a united force of institutions that were willing and had in the past committed themselves to the fight against tobacco.
The network has secured funding from the Framework Convention Alliance on Tobacco Control, whose African region coordinator, Mr Adeola Akinremi, represented them in the strategic planning process. Having met with key stakeholders relevant in the fight against tobacco, the network members remain steadfast as to their prospect of success.
This was expressed by Mr Akinremi, who said that he was delighted by the result of their discussion with the SoS for Health, members of the select committee for health at the national assembly, the inspector general of police, the SoS for Justice, and the WHO country representative. "Our discussions were indeed fruitful, and there is hope that The Gambia is already winning the war against the tobacco industry," he said.
But Mr Akinremi warned against complacence; describing the tobacco industry as influential.
With such a high level contact, the CSO - NGO network for tobacco control in the Gambia appears upbeat, but they sounded a bit cautious. They called on the government of The Gambia to look into the following areas: enforcement of the 1998 public smoking prohibition Act; mass increment of taxation on all tobacco and related products; ban on the sale of tobacco in sticks (only in packets) so as to ensure the limit of affordability by youngsters; and also to impose a ban on the sale of tobacco products to minors or young people below the age of 18 years.
A representative of IOGT, Mr Momodou Lamin Sambou, expressed his organization's commitment towards reaching the ultimate goal of the network. He disclosed that IOGT was currently conducting a survey to gather some statistical information on tobacco consumption. This, he said, would enhance their campaign effort.
Mr Samboujang Conteh, the chairperson of the network, who is also the director of RAID - The Gambia, (one of the member NGOs constituting the network) implored the general public, especially the media and the youth, to support the crusade. He called on network members to "practice as they preach". His advice was also reserved for addicted smokers. He said that it is not only their health that is at risk, but that of non-smokers as well.
Author: by Kemo Cham