FOCUS 1000 Engages Media, MPs & Partners On Nicotine Control Act 2022
FOCUS 1000, a non-profitable national agency, which was established with the commitment to invest in to the most critical period of a child’s life, on Friday 19th August 2022, as part of its awareness raising campaign on the recently enacted Tobacco and Nicotine Control 2022 Act, engaged media practitioners, Members of Parliament and Donor partners at the Country Lodge hotel in Freetown.
Ahmed Sahid Nasrralla (The Monk) President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ), who also doubles as Chairman of the event, in his opening remarks, commended FOCUS 1000 for its stance in championing health related issues and that of WASH activities, adding that they have made serious impact, especially on the child maternal health.
Nasrralla stated that the engagement is a laudable initiative, as he has no doubt that journalists will continue to demonstrate patriotism by disseminating information on the just enacted bill, which he said FOCUS 1000, Parliamentarians and the Ministry of Health have worked so hard for the bill to be enacted.
Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Focus 1000, giving an overview of the program, said his organization was established after he retired from his UN job, with the aim of contributing to nation building by serving his county, stressing that the safety of every child is a concern for his organization
He furthered that the organization’s name ‘FOCUS’ is concerned with the cycle stage of the first 1000 days of a child, which started from 9 months Pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood, which is the foundation of any surviving child.
He continued that FOCUS 1000 partners with the Government, UN Agencies, traditional healers, CSOs the Media and other local international organizations to promote simple, cost-effective and high impact interventions that can help build a solid foundation for children to survive, thrive and develop to become productive citizens.
He said he considers the day as a remarkable day, especially so when everyone is coming together to prioritize the life of women, children and every Sierra Leonean.
Alhaji M.B. Jalloh described tobacco as a harmful Nicotine substance that kills half of all its users, and a leading cause of cancer, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and a contributing factor to infertility, impotence, miscarriage, bad breath and high blood pressure, which makes it very much dangerous for pregnant women.
He ended by thanking WHO, UNICEF, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Civil Rights Activists and the Media for making sure the bill is enacted.
Dr. Wurie from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation stated that government is very much focused on the area of prevention than that of curing, that is why the bill was enacted, especially in consideration of the danger tobacco poses to the human health. Dr. Wurie stated that there is no safe level of expansion to handle tobacco smoking, adding that second-hand smoke inhalation also causes 900,000 premature deaths per year, mostly them being children, as well as causing respiratory disease.
Dr Wurie cautioned Young people to quit smoking, especially women, as most of the deaths caused by smoking are on people in their productive age.
Reynold Senesi, Quality Control Officer, FCTC and Non Comicable Diseases, and Mental health, World Health Organization (WHO), said tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths globally, killing about 8 million people each year, including 1.2 non smokers, but exposure to second-hand smoke serves as risk factor for non communicable disease, such as heart disease.
He stated that tobacco use also increases the risk of contracting some infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, with some smokers likely developing severe COVID 19.
He stated that in order to address the tobacco epidemic, the World Health Assembly adopted the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco (WHO FCTC), an international public health treaty that has been ratified by 182 countries and territories globally, with the aim of protecting present and future generations from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental impact of tobacco smoking, and provide a framework to control tobacco.
He continued that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN members States in 2015, contains 17 sustainable development Goals (SDGs) and goal No 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote Well-being for all ages.
He furthered that the bill will enable Sierra Leone to fulfill its obligation in the international treaty that was signed, to save lives and economy from the loss occasioned by tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.
He however urged the National Revenue Authority (NRA) to impose high taxation on tobacco imports, as that will make tobacco expensive, which will discourage lots of young folks from smoking, and as things stand now, Sierra Leone is one of the countries with the cheapest tobacco price. He ended by establishing that developing nations are tightening the space for Tobacco manufacturing companies, and this has resulted in these products being sent to third world nations as a dumping ground.
Hon. Kasim Gbamie from Kono District, stated that Sierra Leone is now among the 38 Africa nations to pass this Act, adding that the bill was enacted following consultations with Health Ministry, Justice Ministry, Stakeholders and Focus 1000.
He stated that more awareness raising is needed to popularize the bill, to make people understand where and when to smoke. He said the Preliminary interpretation of the bill is key at this point in time, furthering that the Bill prohibits not only tobacco smoking, but all forms of smoking, including shisha.
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