July 25, 2016 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Programme Manager of Health Education Division in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has urged the government and other stakeholders to discourage the importation of tobacco into the country, saying that the substance kills half of it users.
According to Lansana Conteh, tobacco has been identified by experts as a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of deaths worldwide, adding that though a legal product, it kills six million of those that consume it on a yearly basis.
He stated that tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced and that scientific evidence have established that it use and exposure causes disease, disability and deaths.
“Nearly 80 percent of the more than 1 billion smokers of tobacco worldwide live in low and middle income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest,” he said.
He claimed that tobacco users, who die prematurely, deprive their families of income, raise the cost of healthcare and hinder economic development.
Mr. Conteh maintained that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke because in adults, second-hand smoke causes serious cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer, whilst in pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.
“Second-hand smoke causes more than 600,000 premature deaths per year. In 2004, children accounted for 28% of the deaths attributable to second-hand smoke. Smoke-free laws protect the health of non-smokers,” he noted.
The health education expert added that in some countries, children from poor households are frequently employed in tobacco farming to provide family income, a situation he said made them vulnerable to green tobacco sickness, which is caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.
He highlighted price and tax increase, which will reduce its consumption in Sierra Leone by 8 percent and in the ECOWAS sub-region by 10 percent, as one of the many measures to control tobacco.