The World Health Organization in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation commemorated World No Tobacco Day on the 31st May, 2009 at Atlantic hall, National Stadium Freetown.
The programme was chaired by the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dao with the Minister of Health and Sanitation, and the Country Representative of the World Health Organization in attendance. The Chief Medical Officer in his statement noted that the purpose of the occasion was to act as a reminder of the health hazards in smoking tobacco. He presented statistics that over 5,000,000 people die globally as opposed to death rate for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, adding that 32% of men smoke tobacco and less than 1% for women.
In his speech, the country representative of the World Health Organisation Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu mentioned that tobacco is a leading preventable cause of death in the world. He also brought to our attention that Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires signatories to carry on all packages “health warnings describing the harmful effects of tobacco use” and recommends that the warnings contain pictures. This, he said, could be some of the most cost-effective ways of increasing public awareness of the serious health risks of tobacco use and of reducing tobacco consumption. He said that in Africa, most countries do not mandate package warnings that meet the criteria for effectiveness.
The Minister of Health and Sanitation, Sheku Tejan Koroma in his brief presentation buttressed statements made by the WHO Country Representative, adding that tobacco is infected with nicotine which acts adversely against the system. He stated that the government is working on a bill that will prohibit public smoking.
A cardiologist, Dr. James Russell pointed out series of sicknesses caused by smoking tobacco. Among the diseases highlighted are: cancer of the breast, cancer of the spine, cancer of the lungs halitosis or bad breath, and many other deadly diseases. He also stated that smoking does nothing good to the system other than introducing or establishing infectious diseases to the internal organs.
Representing parliamentary committee on health, the honorable Member of Parliament Madam Bintu Myers in her contribution said that it is their duty as MPs to embark on massive sensitization in their various constituencies on the dangers of smoking tobacco.
Suggestions were noted from members of the audience, civil society coalitions and concerned organizations for the way forward to reducing if not eradicating the habit of cigarette smoking among the affected population in the country.