Focus 1000, other CSOs, and IRC-SL call on President Bio to sign Tobacco and Nicotine Act into law
Focus 1000 in collaboration with various other Civil Society Organizations and the Inter-Religious Council-Sierra Leone has called on President Julius Maada Bio to sign the Tobacco and Nicotine Control Act 2022 into law. The Bill seeks to provide for the control and regulation of tobacco and nicotine products, which includes addressing production, manufacturing, importation, packaging and labelling, advertising, promotion and sponsorship, sale and use.
The main objectives of the Bill are to improve public health by limiting the health harms caused by the use of, and exposure to, tobacco and nicotine products, and by reducing demand for these products. Furthermore, the Bill aims to incorporate Sierra Leone’s obligations under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control into domestic law and establish the Tobacco and Nicotine Control Secretariat, which will be responsible for implementing the Act and related matters.
The bill was enacted by parliament in August 2022, making Sierra Leone the 38th country in the World Health Organization African region to advance such legislation. It should have come into law and been implemented six months after it passed through parliament, but the president’s assent which is yet to be given means all that the bill contains remains in theory.
The organizations say signing the act would save the human resource for national development.
Reynold Senessie, a Quality Control Officer for the World Health Organization, emphasized that tobacco use is a leading global cause of death, contributing to six of the world’s top causes of mortality, including respiratory, pulmonary, lung, and other diseases.
Dr. Santigie Sesay, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, highlighted that smoking not only affects the health of the individuals who smoke but also poses risks to those present in the vicinity where smoking occurs, leading to diseases and disabilities.
Sulaiman Koroma, the Communication and Advocacy Consultant for the bill, expressed concern about the lack of clear communication regarding the bill’s status after its passage in parliament, with conflicting accounts about whether it has been sent to the president for approval. He pointed out that globally, 8 million people die annually due to tobacco use and its related diseases, with 800,000 of them being second-hand smokers. In Sierra Leone, he noted that 3,000 people die from tobacco-related causes, which are preventable. He said this is why they are liaising with the IRC-SL and other CSOs to see that the bill is signed.
He ended by urging for the bill to be signed to mitigate the negative impacts of tobacco on the health of Sierra Leoneans.