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“Tobacco is a legal product that maims and kills”

February 8, 2017 By Jonathan Abass Kamara

The magnitude of tobacco epidemic is a big public health concern at global, regional and national levels. It is the single preventable cause of death in the world today but kills around six million people each year.

More than five million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke. It is said that tobacco is one of the greatest emerging health disasters in human history, and that by 2030, 70 percent of all deaths from tobacco will occur in developing countries.

Making his presentation at a one day stakeholders meeting on tobacco at the Makama Hotel in Makeni on Friday February 3, 2017, the WHO African Region Office (AFRO) Public Health Specialist, Dr. Mohamed Ould Sidi, described tobacco as the only legal product that maims and kills people.

Tobacco, Dr. Sidi said , was an economic burdened on the grower, who remains poor, while the manufacturer gets rich.

Consumers, he said, die slowly from serious health consequences ranging from cardiovascular disease: hypertension, heart attack, stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, breathing diseases resulting to lung cancer, other diseases of cancer on the breast, mouth, and other deadly diseases.

Dr. Sidi called on civil society to engage key stakeholders and advocate for high political commitment in the fight on tobacco control in Sierra Leone.

In his presentation on the case for Sierra Leone’s position in its National Tobacco Control Legislation, Manager, Health Education Division, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Mr. Lansana Conteh, said the incidence of smoking in Sierra Leone according to the 2015 Census was 9.1 percent, with the speculation of a long term serious economic and health consequences.

Tobacco, Mr. Conteh reiterated was not good for a tiny country like Sierra Leone, pointing out that it was the only legal consumer product that has the potential to harm everyone exposed to it, and kills half of those who use it as intended. Most of the health damages caused by tobacco, the Health Education Manager said does not become evidence until years after the onset of use.

Mr. Conteh described the tobacco epidemic as devastating but preventable, hence outlined as an unacceptable product for an ailing economy.

Dilating on the progress made by the Sierra Leone government towards achieving the MDGs and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Mr. Conteh said Sierra Leoneans and those living in the country must not allow what he referred to as a man-made problem to derail the effort made in addressing pressing health problems.

The fight against tobacco, he went on, must be engaged quickly with its utmost urgency than battle against life threatening infectious diseases.

“We can halt the tobacco epidemic and move towards a tobacco free nation”, Mr. Conteh assured the Sierra Leone population.

Other highlights include statements from the Director, Non-Communicable Disease and Mental Health, Dr. Alie Wurie, WHO Focal Point and Communication Officer, Mrs. Aminata Kobi, presentation of group work and the Road Map for Action on Multi Sectoral approach, privatization, communication and coordination, expand partnership, fight against illicit trade on tobacco,  and Ministry of Health and Sanitation integration of its National Strategic at all level in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.

Stakeholders’ consensus for the appointment of a multi-sectoral committee for action on tobacco control formed high point at the end of the meeting.