Smoking, especially tobacco smoking, is a harmful practice that can cause several diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and chest infections. Due to its harmful effects, smoking in public is banned, and the sale and advertisements of tobacco products are prohibited in The Gambia.
To further discourage people from smoking or importing tobacco products, the government plans to increase taxes on tobacco products (see page 67 ANNEX 5 Revenue Measures) and order tobacco (cigarettes) sellers not to sell it per stick.
In this explainer, DUBAWA highlights some of the most common diseases smoking causes. We engaged Seyfo Singhateh, Senior Program Officer of Non-Communicable Disease (NCD), Directorate of Health services at the Ministry of Health of The Gambia, regarding the subject. The Ministry of Health noted that the disease affects smokers and those exposed to cigarette smoke.
1. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
COPD is an obstructive lung disease that causes difficulty in breathing. It also causes long-term disability and early death. It leads to inactivity and loss of strength that will eventually worsen, making walking extremely difficult for a distance. About 85% to 90% of all COPD is caused by cigarette smoking.
2. Heart disease
Smoking causes dangerous plaque build-up that can clog and narrow the arteries. Poisons from tobacco smoke also quickly damage blood vessels and make blood more likely to clog. This can block blood flow and lead to heart attack, stroke, or sudden death.
A stroke is a loss of brain function caused when blood flow within the brain is interrupted. The ailment can cause permanent brain damage to the brain and sometimes lead to death. Smoking increases the risk of strokes in people.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it harder to move air in and out of the lungs, known as “breathing.” Smoking irritates air passages. It can trigger sudden and severe asthma attacks. Asthma is also a serious health problem that affects millions of people globally.
5. Diabetes type 2
Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes and smoke, your risk for kidney disease is two or three times higher than if you don’t smoke. Smokers with diabetes also have a higher risk for heart disease, an eye disease that can cause blindness, and nerve damage that leads to numbness, pain, weakness, poor circulation and amputations. Smokers who have diabetes also have more difficulty recovering from surgeries.
6. Infertility and pregnancy problem
Smoking reduces a woman’s chance of getting pregnant and damages sperm cells. Damage to sperm could decrease fertility and lead to miscarriage or congenital disabilities.
Men who smoke are more likely to have erectile dysfunction, which can affect reproduction. Women who smoke during pregnancy have a higher risk for ectopic pregnancy, delivering their babies early, and stillbirth. Those who smoke during early pregnancy are likelier to have babies born with a cleft lip or palate.
Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy are likelier to have low birth weight or die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
How does smoking cause diseases?
Smoking, especially tobacco smoking, weakens the immune system of a smoker. As a result, it will undermine the system in fighting any diseases in the body. When the immune system is weak, it makes it easier for any disease to overcome the system.
Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 harmful chemicals that can lead to several diseases in the human body. It also causes infertility in both men and women. When the immune system is weak, it leads to diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases. Smoking also increases the risk of tuberculosis and certain eye diseases.
What is the Ministry of Health doing to protect people from the effects of tobacco smoking?
Over twenty years, The Gambia has compiled a good collection of legal frameworks that reassures tobacco control.
The Gambia has enacted the Tobacco Control Act and developed Tobacco Control Regulations.
The Gambia has approved the Protocol to Eliminate Unlawful Trade in Tobacco Products and developed the National Tobacco Control Program Document. In their effort to curtail tobacco use, The Gambia government, through the Ministry of Health, created an Act in 2016 called the ‘Tobacco Control Act 2016’. The Act was adopted in December 2016 and entered into force on December 17, 2018.
The Tobacco Control Regulation 2019 contains implementing details related to health warning content, sales restrictions, disclosure requirements, smoke-free places, and enforcement.
The Regulations entered into force on October 1, 2019. The Act prohibited all indoor workplaces, public places, and smoking on all means of public transport.
Based on scientific evidence, the conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention of Tobacco Control has stated that 100% smoke-free environments are the only proven way to adequately protect people’s health from the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.
The researcher produced this explainer at the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with (The Fatu Network) Daily Trust to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.