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Tobacco causes 3,330 deaths, 1.5% GDP loss annually

June 2, 2021

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

Senior officials from the Ministry of Health, WHO and Focus 1000

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have revealed in a document that 3,330 annual deaths in Sierra Leone are attributed to tobacco, and that the country losses 1.5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from tobacco related illnesses.

WHO made the above disclosure on World No Tobacco Day, observed on Monday, May 31st, with the theme “Commit to Quit” – smoking has a greater risk of becoming severely ill and dying from COVID-19.

DR. Santigie Seasy, Director, Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, said every year, on 31st May, World No Tobacco Day is celebrated across the globe and that the occasion reminds all of the threats involved with tobacco.

He encourages all to celebrate the day by spreading awareness about the adverse effects of tobacco, and motivate everyone to not consume any kind of tobacco.

“This day is also seen as an opportunity to make people aware of the harmful effects of consuming tobacco that is why the theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Quit tobacco to be a winner,” he stated.

He noted that exposure to tobacco at a young age does not only create lifetime smokers, but also increases risks of developing chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer.

He said smoke and tobacco are never solutions to stress and tension, rather they are the biggest tensions on which people must work by throwing them out of your life, adding that saying no to tobacco is saying yes to life.

“I want to take this opportunity to make a humble appeal to the office of the Minister of Health and Sanitation here represented by Dr. Jambai and the office of the Chief Medical Officer here represented by Dr. Mathew Vandy, to please effective immediately declare, if not the entire Youyi Building and its surrounding, but the 4th Floor a no smoke area,” he concluded.

Document distributed in the meeting revealed that Shisha tobacco has significantly higher nicotine content than cigarettes; one head of unflavoured tobacco has a nicotine equivalent of 70 cigarettes.

It states that Shisha tobacco contains numerous toxins known to cause lung disease, even after passing through water; the smoke contains high level of toxins including carbondioxide, metals and cancer-causing chemicals.

It further revealed that a typical 1 hour long shisha smoking session involves inhaling 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled with a single cigarette.

Reprehensive of  WHO, Dr. Janet Kayila, congratulated the MOHS for their preparation of materials for the meeting and encourages all present to help share the messages on the said materials, because those information can help save life.

She further encourages citizens to talk to their parliamentarians to pass the tobacco bill as urgent as possible.

She further encourages all to follow the World Health Organization’s framework about tobacco control which includes Price and tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco, and non-price measures to reduce the demand for tobacco.

Dr. Janet measures among others, the protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, regulation of the contents of tobacco products, regulation of tobacco product disclosures and packaging and labelling of tobacco products.

Dr. Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, Chief Executive Officer of Focus 1000, said his organization focuses on first 1000 days of life which starts from pregnancy to two years, adding that the first 1000 days of human is the foundation of life. The first 1000 days of child and the mother are force to too many risks.

He said Sierra Leone has been doing a lot in reducing the maternal and child mortality, but that the country still has one of the highest infant mortality in the world.

He added that during pregnancy, there are lot of things that place the mother and child at risk, citing smoking.

He said smoking is not good for pregnant women because it affects the child and subsequently leads to maternal mortality, and that it can also lead to early child death, so all pregnant women should stop smoking for their child to grow healthy.

He continues that mother and child can be corrected through education, community engagement and that they can also engage religious leaders for them to convince their followers to stop smoking.

He added that the head of schools should encourage their pupils not to smoke.

“As the CEO of focus 1000, I am going to declare no smoking in my office, home and community with immediate effect, for the reduction of smoking in the country now that I have heard the information about smoking,” he said.

He said he would also work with World Health Organization, UNISIF and the ministry of health to have a bill that will regulate the marketing of substitute for breast.

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