By: Sulaiman Stom Koroma.
FOCUS 1000 which is the NGO contracted by WHO to lead in the advocacy and ensure the Tobacco and Nicotine bill was passed into law before the end of the span of Parliament, has held a media breakfast for journalists across the country on the recently passed Tobacco and Nicotine Control Act 2022, this event was held at the Country Lodge Friday, August 19th. The media breakfast was aimed at ensuring that journalists have a firm understanding of the rationale behind the Act, know what the Act entails, and be able to define their roles and responsibilities concerning public education on the contents of the Act.
Given his welcome statement, the Chief Executive Officer for FOCUS 100, Mohammad B. Jalloh started by expressing his gratification that an Act that is geared towards protecting the lives of unborn babies, the youths, and secondhand smokers in the country has been passed into law. This Act he says will stand the test of time as it is one of the best in the sub-region. He thanked the ministry of health and sanitation and WHO for their tremendous support leading to the enactment of the bill and moving forward, to do massive publicity and sensitization in every part of the country so that people are educated and guided about the content of the Act. “We shall use our Kombra Network to reach the four corners of this country to ensure the information of the bill is spread, we will also work with the different stakeholders to work as partners to save the lives of our people,” He said.
Honorable Kasigbama is one of the members of parliament who took the lead in the enactment of the bill, he said Sierra Leone is one of the thirty-eight countries in the world to enact this law, for which he called on the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to ensure a massive sensitization is done and engaged the general populace on the law and its implications. He emphasizes that many a time lesser publicity is given to Acts that are passed in parliament but this law should change the narratives as people should be well informed about it and the penalties it goes with.
Reynold Senesi is the Quality Assurance Officer at WHO he said that tobacco is killing 8 million people every year of which one million is as a result of secondhand smoking. He said that over 180 countries are signatories to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and that Tobacco directly undermines all efforts toward sustainable development as tobacco cuts across almost all those goals which makes it a risk factor for over forty diseases. In Sierra Leone, over 3000 people die from tobacco smoking and of which 68% are young people, he said. “Economically, the country is losing over four hundred billion each year by not implementing regulations of tobacco control, but the country can save over one trilling Leone in fifteen years when there is control on tobacco use. Low and middle-income countries are now the target for the tobacco industry as the regulations of developing countries are getting tighter” He concluded.
During his address to journalists, the Deputy Chief Medical Office Dr. Alie Wurie said that the number of young people who are dying of cigarette smoking is alarming and worrisome, especially with the introduction of electronic cigarettes like shisha which many young people especially girls who are using it as fashion. “Tobacco smoking affects all parts of the body; from your head to the toe not considering one’s gender. We as medical personnel knew the dangers of cigarette smoking and that was why we kept pushing for the bill, and now that we have got it, our next focus will be implementation and popularization of this bill.” He said.
The media breakfast was chaired by the president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Ahmed Sahid Nasrrala who call on journalists to do due diligence on the bill during proper research and also use the provided materials as a guide for their publications and broadcast. He says such an Act should be well popularized so that people will be well informed about the dangers of smoking cigarettes in public areas and that they are also aware that there are now penalties for defaulters.
In 2021 the Government introduced The Tobacco and Nicotine Control Act, 2021 for the control and regulation of the production, manufacturing, importation, packaging and labeling, advertising, promotion and sponsorship, sale and use of tobacco, tobacco products, and other nicotine products, to provide for the improvement of public health by limiting the health harms caused by the use of, and exposure to, tobacco including nicotine. For the past months, the bill has been debated intensively by members of parliament who looked at the pros and cons of the bill, and on the 3rd of August 2022 enacted it.
The media breakfast brought together about a hundred journalists and bloggers throughout the country.