Whilst debating on the new National Drug Control Act 2008 last Thursday, some members of Parliament agitated for the banning of cigarette smoking in public places and also that of alcohol drinking.
The MPs argued that whilst penalties are being placed on drugs – like cocaine, heroine, morphine and marijuana – nicotine and alcohol should be included in the harmful list.
Hon Tamba Khagbenje of SLPP, the first of over twenty parliamentarians who contributed on the bill, posed the question of why cigarette smoking was left out of the bill. He suggested that smoking in public places should be banned as he made references to smoking within the precincts of the House of Parliament, Government buildings, and schools. He said both smoking and alcoholism have harmful effects on the mind and body. The repercussions these have on the health of people, he said, was dismal and therefore must be banned in public places.
Hon Dr Moses Sesay of APC said most of the havoc caused during the war was because of the use of drugs and the misuse of alcohol. He said these drugs affect the cells and reduces the chemicals that supply the brain, causing people to act abnormally.
Hon Marie Jalloh of APC, Sheka Musa Sama of PMDC, Hon Robin Farley of SLPP, Dr Bernadette Lahai of SLPP, Eustace King of APC and Legacy K. Sankoh of PMDC all spoke in detail the effects drugs have on those taking it. Social aspects were also mentioned, including the observation that some parents even send their children to buy them cigarettes.
“Banning smoking in public places, I cannot agree more,” said Hon S.B.B Dumbuya of APC. The deputy majority leader in parliament noted there were warnings on nearly all cigarette cartons that say smoking is harmful to the body. Even if you don’t smoke, Mr. Dumbaya said, the effects of inhaling smoke from other nearby smokers (secondhand smoke) is just as damaging and enough reason to pursue a ban on smoking.
The Internal Affairs, Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Dauda Kamara, took the National Drug Bill to Parliament and responded to the MPs concerns about smoking and drinking. While he supported the general sentiment of the MPs, he did concede that “banning cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking is a broader approach… when you think about the economic aspect.”
By Ishmael Bayoh