The disclosure by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare that The Gambia would soon join other World Health Organisation Member States that have already passed laws to implement plain packaging of tobacco products is indeed welcome. He is right that it is time to act and it is gratifying to note that the authorities are ready to act without delay.
Plain packaging of tobacco products first started in Australia in 2012. And as set out in the Australian Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, the objective is to improve public health by discouraging people from using tobacco products, discouraging relapse of tobacco use and reducing exposure to tobacco smoke.
Tobacco plain packaging contributes to these objectives by regulating the retail packaging and appearance of tobacco products in order to: reduce the appeal of tobacco products to consumers; increase the effectiveness of health warnings; and reduce the ability of the retail packaging of tobacco products to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking or using tobacco products.
The health effects of tobacco consumption are devastating and according to health experts, it can cause lung diseases, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and most cases of lung cancer. Researches have showed that if you have asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse.
Cigar and pipe smoke, like cigarette smoke, contains toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and non-smokers. If you smoke cigars daily, you are at increased risk for developing heart disease and lung diseases such as emphysema.
The Gambia has made significant strides in the fight against tobacco and the awarding of two of the five awards meant for the African region are clear testament of the leadership’s commitment. We say kudos to The Gambia Government.