The Technical Working Group on Tobacco Control and Prevention Tuesday sensitised the senior management team of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on the proposed 3% tax allocation for tobacco control activities in the country.
The meeting, which was held at the Ministry's conference room, brought together senior staff of the Health Ministry and members of the Technical Working Group.
Speaking at the meeting, Sambujang Conteh, director of Raid The Gambia, an NGO working in the area of tobacco control, explained that the objective of the development campaign is to discuss proposed tax allocation to the Non-Communicable Unit of the Ministry. He said that the Technical Working Group is lobbying for an increase in tobacco tax so that 3% would be allocated to the Ministry to run tobacco activities in the country. He added that intensive campaign and resource mobilisation for the lobbying of the proposed increment on tobacco tax for the Ministry would be an ongoing process.
Conteh also informed the gathering that officials of the Ministry of Finance would be engaged in this process in order to get their support for the proposed allocation the technical working group is lobbying for. He explained that the senior management team of the Ministry of Health has been sensitised on the issue, for them to have firsthand information about the Technical Working Group's proposal on the issue.
He said after the launching of the development campaign, series of meetings were held with stakeholders in the area of tobacco control in The Gambia, including the multi-sectorial working group on tobacco, which includes key government ministries and NGOs working in the area of tobacco control and prevention. He stressed that the Directorate of Health Promotion Education cannot deal with the issue of tobacco all by itself, adding that they need the support of the Multi-Sectorial Working Group and the Technical Working group on Tobacco Prevention and Control. He said that is why they started engaging key stakeholders in the process and came up with recommendations on how to achieve the 3% of tax allocation for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Conteh further stated that they will fully involve the Ministry of Finance and the National Assembly, as well as the Senior Management team of the Ministry of Health, because they are critical in this process. He noted that the UN agencies and state parties have committed to consider the prevention and education of tobacco usage as a development priority, while informing that The Gambia is a signatory to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). He disclosed that Article 26 of the FCTC stated that all state parties should recognise the importance that financial resources play in achieving the objectives of the Convention.
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Matilda Boye, said the Ministry will work closely with the Technical Working Group on Tobacco Control and Prevention and the Multi-Sectorial Working Group on tobacco towards the proposed 3%, and that the Ministry of Finance will be fully engaged. She urged the taskforce to come up with a comprehensive justification on the 3% allocation and also to put in place key strategies towards the effective implementation of tobacco control activities.
PS Boye called on the taskforce members to counsel people to stop smoking; he also advised them to closely work with the communities in order to make an impact in the no-smoking campaign, and to use IEC materials and photos that show dangers of smoking. She further advised them to also use TV, radio, newspapers and other communication outlets to effectively sensitise people.