By Kadrie Koroma – PRO Unit/MOHS
Sierra Leone has joined other countries around the world to commemorate World No Tobacco Day and Health Fair on the theme: “Tobacco Breaks Hearts, Choose Health Not Tobacco” on Thursday May 31, 2018 at the Atlantic Hall of the National Stadium Hostel in Freetown.
The event was organized by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and development partners.
In his keynote address, the new Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Anthony Augustine Sandi disclosed that World No Tobacco Day is a day delineated by all member states of the World Health Organization to raise awareness on the real and substantive dangers of tobacco.
He informed his audience that tobacco is one of the leading risk factors for serious chronic diseases such as heart diseases, strokes and cancers, adding that in all its forms, whether chewed or smoked, tobacco causes infertility, miscarriages, breathing disorders and infection, and rots from the inside out.
Dr. Sandi reiterated that the health impacts of tobacco fall not only on those who use tobacco products themselves, but the people around them who are exposed to their smoke in homes, vehicles or public places such as cinema halls, restaurants and market places.
He said the government has made a commitment to beat tobacco at the highest level when it signed onto the UN Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003. He added that the Ministry has developed a draft Tobacco Control Bill, which would see the population protected against exposure to tobacco smoke in public places, as well as measures designed to reduce uptake, increase taxation and raise awareness on the health and societal cost of tobacco use.
The Deputy Minister stated that the Ministry is committed to implementing effective interventions that support prevention and control efforts, and appealed to the public, media and community leaders to join in raising awareness on the harmful health impacts of tobacco, especially among the youth.
Giving an overview of World No Tobacco Day and the tobacco epidemic, WHO Acting Officer in-Charge, Dr. Janet Kayita said tobacco kills half of all long-term users, and globally, kills more than 7 million people each year.
She informed her audience that second hand smoke is very harmful, especially to children, adding that there are more than 1 billion smokers in the world, and 80 percent in low-and middle-income countries.
Dr. Janet Kayita stated that up to 1 billion people could die from tobacco-related disease during the 21st Century, adding that 890, 000 non-smokers die each year due to being exposed to cigarette smoke or tobacco product know as second hand smoke.
The Director of Non- Communicable Diseases and Mental Health and Chairman for the ceremony, Dr. Santigie Sesay said tobacco causes over two million deaths from cardiovascular diseases every year, stating that worldwide, 1 in 10 heart disease deaths are linked to tobacco.
He said cigarette smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic, and at least 50 that cause cancer.
Highlight of the ceremony include statement from the Programme Director, FORUT, William Dauda, presentation on Addiction and giving up tobacco by the Addiction Specialist, Donald Conteh, song, skit performance and Health Fair formed part of the ceremony.