From the Editor’s Keyboard

Tobacco and sustainable development goals in Sierra Leone

18 October 2018 at 04:31 | 2443 views

By Emperor Bailor Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief

The magnitude of the tobacco epidemic is a big public health concern at global, regional and national levels.

Tobacco is the single preventable cause of death in the world today. Tobacco kills around 6 million people each year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600,000 are the result of non - smokers being exposed to second hand smoke.

Tobacco is one of the greatest emerging health disasters in human history, a major challenge in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) in Africa in general and Sierra Leone in particular.

By 2030,70% of all deaths from tobacco will occur in developing countries like Sierra Leone. If the current trends continue, about 650 million people alive today will eventually killed by tobacco, half of them in productive middle age, each losing 20 to 25 years of life.

In Sierra Leone, the incidence of smoking is 9.1% ( census 2015). This can have long term serious economic and health consequences for such a small country.
75% of males and 62.5 of females in Sierra Leone are exposed to tobacco smoke in the workplace and 76.9% of males and 70% of females are exposed to tobacco smoke at home ( WHO - STEPS 2009).

The Sierra Leone Population and Housing census date of 2015 indicates that while 9.1% use tobacco products only 2.6% use tobacco and alcohol.

Tobacco use in Sierra Leone has an adverse impact on health, poverty, malnutrition, education and the environment. Consequently, tobacco control has been recognized as a key component of reaching the sustainable development goals.

On Wednesday 1st of February, 2017, I was one of many journalists from the Parliamentary Press Gallery of Sierra Leone who covered the advocacy meeting by UN World Health Organization ( WHO) and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone with the parliamentary oversight committee on Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone parliament on tobacco control in Sierra Leone.

In that advocacy meeting,the effects of tobacco on health, the economy and the environment, the national tobacco control legislation of Sierra Leone or tobacco control bill were deliberated.

According to a situational analysis of tobacco in Sierra Leone by the National Tobacco Control Strategy 2012-2016, tobacco trade contributes close to USD 10 million annually to government in the form of tax revenue. And tobacco related deaths in Sierra Leone result in lost economic opportunities.

For the poor, money spent on tobacco means money that should have been spent on basic necessities such as food, shelter education and health care.