11 March 2008

Sierra Leone: Curbing the Menace of Cigarette


It is disheartening to know that Sierra Leone remains the only country in the world that have neither signed nor ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty.

FCTC is an international treaty; the first of its kind mandated by World Health Assembly in response to the acknowledged spread of tobacco epidemics as a global problem with serious consequences for public health and the need for urgent international effort and co-operation to curb the trend.

The primary objective of the treaty is to protect present and future generations from the consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.

The treaty is to be signed and ratified by mentor countries of World Health Organisation. This legally binding treaty gives nations powerful tools to protect the health of their citizens from the tobacco industries' deceptions and slick marketing. Among the major provisions of the treaty is for countries to: (1) Ban all tobacco advertisings, promotions and sponsorship (2) Place large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs.

(3) Implement measures to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke (4) Increase the price of tobacco products.

(5) Combat cigarette smuggling (6) Regulate the content of tobacco products etc.

The treaty came into force on 27th February 2005 and was quickly signed by a record number of member countries. Unfortunately, either by omission or delusion, successive governments in Sierra Leone have not deemed it necessary to sign this all-important document. Consequently, thousands of Sierra Leoneans have been exposed to tobacco-induced death and diseases. Moreover, tobacco dealers and manufacturers have exploited the absence of FCTC in Sierra Leone to boost their sales at the expense of our nationals.

However, time is now to stop tobacco menace syndrome in Sierra Leone. The Ministry of Health through its Health Education Division in collaboration with WHO and other notable NGOs, YATS, Well Women Clinic, have taken initiatives for the eventual accession of FCTC by Sierra Leone through the formation of Task Force on FCTC accession. The task force has drawn its blueprint and soonest, Sierra Leone will join other countries of the world in the fight against tobacco and bequest its citizens the much-desired smoke-free environment.

However, the fight against tobacco is an Herculean one that calls for concerted efforts from every well-meaning Sierra Leoneans. Our country must be protected from tobacco and its associated vices which constitute serious health, economic and social problems and therefore requires urgent and immediate intervention by individuals, corporate organization and government.

Tobacco is a poison that has deprived our nation of a healthy workforce, depressed most households especially low-income ones basic necessities such as food, education and health care.

As in the words of Sir Edmund Burke "All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing." Tobacco is evil from every perspective, therefore the good people of Sierra Leone must do something to stop this evil called tobacco. Join the campaign against tobacco today.

Dr. Williams Ohaeri is the national coordinator of Youths Against Tobacco Smoking (YATS) in Sierra Leone.

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