The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Omar Sey, has stated that The Gambia will soon join other World Health Organisation Member States that have already passed laws to implement plain packaging of tobacco products. He said it is time to act and they are ready to act now.
He was speaking on Monday during the commemoration of the World No Tobacco Day held in Banjul. The theme for this year’s celebration advocates for the introduction of “Plain (standardised) packaging” of tobacco products. The plain packaging was first introduced in Australia in 2012 and recently in the United Kingdom, France which was followed by other countries.
As part of the celebration, The Gambia has also won two of the five awards for the World No Tobacco Day 2016 throughout the African region. The WHO presents these prestigious awards to individuals, organisations, and institutions all over the world for their outstanding contributions to tobacco control.
Dr. Sey further said the World No Tobacco Day is commemorated internationally every year on the 31st May in order to underline the risks associated with tobacco use and to advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
According to him, plain packing of tobacco products restricts or prohibits use of logos, colours, brand images and promotional information, noting that it is part of an integrated approach to tobacco control that helps reduce attractiveness of tobacco packaging and eliminate tobacco advertising and promotion.
“As countries seek to embrace the plain packaging of tobacco products, tobacco companies all over the world are on the fight against this great initiative with massive misinformation campaigns,” he added.
“With the strong multi-sectorol team and media houses we have in The Gambia, I have the full assurance that The Gambia can effectively implement the promotion of plain packaging of tobacco products.’’
He added that his Ministry is in full support of the plain packaging and therefore, count on the continued support and collaboration from the media and the multi-sectoral team.
For his part, the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Charles Sagoe-Moses said this annual event is part of the WHO’s global efforts to recognise and honour individuals, organisations and institutions from around the world for their outstanding contributions to tobacco control.
According to him, 28 recipients of this year’s awards consist of individuals, institutions and organisations from the six regions of the WHO, adding that The Gambia alone has won two out of the five awards dedicated to the African region. He noted that the other winners came from Rwanda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He described the award as a great achievement but hastened to add that they were not surprise as a lot of good work had been done and continues to be done in various aspects of tobacco control (policy formulation and implementation, taxation, legislation, public awareness and action, surveillance and multi-sectoral action) in The Gambia.
He revealed that their records show that The Gambia is indeed a great and widely recognised champion of global tobacco control efforts, having been among winners of this prestigious award since 2000.
Sambujang Conteh, the Executive Director of RAID-The Gambia, said that the country has registered tremendous achievements on tobacco control. He noted that the WHO’s prestigious award is a clear manifestation of the commitment and dedication of both the Honourable Minister and the inter-ministerial committee on tobacco control. He noted that tobacco use cannot be addressed in isolation.
by Arfang MS Camara