During the World No Tobacco Day Commemoration in Freetown on Friday, May 31st, Dr. Santigie Sesay, Director at the Directorate of Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health in the Ministry of Health, highlighted the dire consequences of tobacco consumption in Sierra Leone.

According to Dr. Sesay, tobacco usage leads to approximately 3,330 deaths annually in the country, with 900 of these attributed to second-hand smoke exposure alone.

Dr. Sesay emphasized the alarming statistics, revealing that 955,000 adults and 4,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 use tobacco products yearly. He underscored the need for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to combat this concerning trend.

Furthermore, Dr. Sesay elucidated on the link between tobacco consumption and noncommunicable diseases, citing it as a significant risk factor for various health issues including heart attacks, respiratory infections, and cancer. He particularly highlighted the devastating effects of tobacco on pregnant women, noting its association with pregnancy complications such as miscarriages and stillbirths.

In addition to the health risks posed by smoking, Dr. Sesay warned against the dangers of second-hand smoke, emphasizing its severe health implications for non-smokers.

Dr. Sesay called for urgent action from all stakeholders to enforce the Nicotine and Tobacco Bill, emphasizing the potential benefits of tobacco control policies such as taxation, smoke-free policies, and advertising restrictions. He asserted that effective implementation of these measures could avert thousands of deaths and significant economic losses over the years.

Supporting Dr. Sesay’s stance, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the regional Director of WHO, commended Sierra Leone’s progress in tobacco control, particularly with the enactment of the Narcotic and Tobacco Bill.

Dr. Moeti urged countries to accelerate the implementation of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, with a focus on stringent measures to curb the marketing of new and emerging tobacco and narcotic products, especially those targeting youth through social media platforms