The Gambia together with the World Health Organisation are working towards establishing an effective and efficient taxation system to control tobacco usage in the country, especially in public places. This was disclosed by Momodou Ceesay from WHO at the opening of a workshop organised by the Directorate of Health Promotion under the Health Ministry for policy makers, academia and stakeholders in tobacco control. The meeting was funded by WHO through Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa (CTCA).
"Alongside the workshop, the WHO team is also supporting the Gambia in the development of an effective and efficient tax system for tobacco control," said Mr. Ceesay. He added that the mission and activities during this period provides further advantage to the Gambia to effectively implement as well as fast track the implementation of the framework convention on tobacco control, particularly the gaps identified during the needs assessment mission to the Gambia in September 2012. Mr. Ceesay described the meeting as important and timely for the fact that it demonstrates the growing multi sectoral effort in the country geared towards tobacco control. He assured them of WHO's support towards the implementation of tobacco control.
Officially opening the workshop, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Omar Sey, said his Ministry is aware of the complexity surrounding tobacco control and believes that no single institution can tackle this alone. According to him, effective tobacco control requires coordinated multi sectoral action. He thus described the stakeholders' workshop as timely as the Gambia strives to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control since its ratification by the Gambia National Assembly in 2007. Minister Sey stated that since 1998, the Gambia has been in the forefront in tobacco control in the sub region such as the enactment of the prohibition of smoking in public places and the ban on advertisement of tobacco products.
In 2010, the health Minister said, with the help of WHO, the country was able to conduct a nationwide assessment on the magnitude of tobacco use as well as other risk factors on non-communicable diseases on the adult population. Minister Sey concluded that his ministry together with other organizations, including WHO and RAID, will continue to pursue this and other initiatives.
The Director of Health Promotion, Modou Njie, in his welcoming remarks, expressed hope that the participants will come up with tangible strategies on how to tackle tobacco control in the country. He commended the World Health Organisation for the technical support and also for setting up a way forward for them to work through a multi sectoral working group which was formed in 2012.
After the setting up of the working group, he said, they were able to conduct a joint need assessment on tobacco control in the Gambia with the support of partners, the Health Ministry and WHO. Dr. William Onzivu from the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa said from the need assessment they conducted in 2012, they have seen an excellent commitment towards the achievement of tobacco control in the country, describing it as a great inspiration for them. He also expressed hope that the workshop will be able to come up with a road map on enforcement compliance on the existing laws and raise awareness about tobacco control and the framework convention and road map on how they will be able to achieve the number of deliveries especially taxation.
The meeting focuses on the Effective implementation of tobacco control laws, awareness of tobacco control on the WHO framework as well as the development of a tobacco action plan.