By Landing Ceesay
The Tobacco Control Law enforcement authorities are set to enforce the ban on tobacco and related products, particularly shisha smoking.
The task force disclosed the plan over the weekend during their visit to restaurants and public places along the Senegambia area where customers of the said facilities mostly use the product. The committee advised the facility owners to stop the smoking of Shisha at their facilities and warned them that they will confiscate the equipment used in smoking the substance at any facility in their next visit and subsequently arraign the owners in court.
“The shisha is a banned product because we don’t want to be harsh on our operations, we still advise people to stop using it completely. But our next step is once it is found on your premises, the shisha will be confiscated and you would also be summoned to court. Because it is a banned product and it should not be used,” Commissioner Alhagie Kinteh, Tobacco control focal point for the police stated.
Commissioner Kinteh said people know that shisha is a banned product yet they are using it in public places. He said people think that the law is just lying down and no one will enforce it, but what they fail to understand is that the law must take its cause; saying once they are found using shisha, they will face the full force of the law.
“Shisha is a banned product and it remains banned. Our next step, we are not going to inform anyone because we have done enough sensitization now,” Commissioner Kinteh informed.
Meanwhile, Omar Badjie, National Tobacco control focal point for the Ministry of Health said they have engaged all facility owners across the country.
“In 2019 we went to all the restaurants, all the bars, all the nightclubs and places where people always gather from Kartong to Koina…We sensitized all these bars, restaurants and nightclubs here in Senegambia about these laws. We also gave them No smoking stickers for them to paste in their bars, restaurants and nightclubs. We also gave them a copy of the tobacco control act 2016 and tobacco control regulation 2019 for them to acquaint themselves with the law, “Mr Badjie said.
He said there are numerous health implications of smoking; saying from head to toe there is no part in the body that smoking does not affect.
“Tobacco can cause diabetes, it can cause hypertension, [and] it can cause respiratory diseases and so many other diseases. We are seeing an increase in diabetes and cancer in the country and these are the major non-communicable diseases globally. In the Gambia non-communicable diseases when you look at it, they account for 34% of all deaths in the Gambia.
“Tobacco stands to be a potential risk factor to these deaths. So, this is why we are emphasising non-tobacco use so that people can be aware of these risks. Because a single stick of tobacco contains more than seven thousand different chemicals and 60% of these chemicals are poisonous including shisha and most people think that shisha is not harmful. But, it is the most harmful tobacco product you can ever see. This is what our youth are using in the Gambia. So to avoid all those things, or to ensure that we have healthy answers and protect our youths,” Badjie stated.
The joint Tobacco Control Law enforcement officers on Saturday 26th June 2021 began a special operation in the Kanifing Municipality and Senegambia area to reinforce the law and regulations, which has banned public smoking, display of tobacco products, selling of single sticks and selling to and by minors etc.
Meanwhile, the Tobacco Control Act 2016 forbids a person to smoke in an enclosed space that is within 100 meters of a public place, workplace, public transport or any other place that provides services primarily to a minor; or within 100 meters of a window, door, or air intake mechanism of a public place or workplace or a waiting area or queue; or within 100 meters from the place of service or consumption of food or drinks or; designated as a non-smoking area by the person responsible for the premises.
Smoking shisha involves burning wood, coal or charcoal to heat up specially prepared tobacco [shisha]. Flavoured tobacco commonly called ‘maassel’ is often used. When the tobacco is heated, it produces smoke. The smoke bubbles through a bowl of water or other liquid and goes into a long hose-like tube or pipe. The smoker inhales the smoke through a mouthpiece fitted to the end of the pipe.