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Banjul, October 28, 2016: 

The president of the Islamic Republic of the Gambia,  Sheikh Professor Alhagi Dr. Yahya A, J.J. Jameh has  called for the expeditious passing of the tobacco control bill, and promised  to assent to it as soon as  the National Assembly passes  into law. 

Accordingly, CTCA has learnt that the president has issued a directive for the immediate gazettment of the tobacco control bill for debate  in the National Assembly, following its approval by the sub-committee of cabinet. Ordinarily, the bill would have to first be discussed in cabinet before gazettement, a process the President has directed to bypass due to the importance and urgency of the issue of tobacco control. 

Gambia’s Minister for Health & Social Welfare Hon. Omar Sey revealed this while meeting a team of technical staff from CTCA that had paid a courtesy call on him in his Office in Banjul, on October 27th, 2016. The team wanted to establish the status of the tobacco control bill and devise strategies of ensuring that it is tabled in the National Assembly as soon as possible.    

Hon. Omar Sey assured CTCA that his entire government, including the presidency, is committed to having the bill passed into law before end of 2016.  He  lamented that rate at which young people are taking on smoking is alarming, adding that this calls for a comprehensive legislation to guide policy  if the tobacco problem is to be addressed. According to the WHO Global Tobacco Youth Survey( GTYS) of 2010, 24.5% of children aged 13 – 15 years old ever smoked cigarettes. Of these, 28.6% are boys while 20.3% are girls. 

Earlier in the week, CTCA, along with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoH& SW) carried out a training of over 30  tobacco control stakeholders and government technocrats to orient them on Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC so as to insulate them against tobacco industry interference. Over 18 government departments and line ministries, CSOs and the media participated in the training. 

In a separate session, CTCA and the MoH &SW held a meeting with the tobacco control multi-sectoral group to devise strategies of establishing a forum of champions in the National Assembly to spear head the debate.  

The Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry  Mr. Janko Jimbara hailed the efforts of the technical team at the NCD department adding that their commitment has been very crucial in ensuring that there momentum and support is built up the level of the president.

At the end of the mission, the Director for Health Promotion in the MoH &SW, Mr. Modou Njai hailed CTCA for their continued support to tobacco control in the Gambia and pledged to ensure that  his team provides the necessary assistance to the National Assembly  to guide the debate.  A number of legislators who attended the strategic meeting pledged to champion the cause and ensure that the bill is passed into law without any distortions.