Over fifty five Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) across the country have called on President Bio to append his signature to the existing Tobacco and Nicotine Bill, which was enacted by Members of Parliament in order to translate the bill into law. They made this passionate appeal during a workshop organized by FOCUS 1000 at the CCSL Conference Hall on King Harman Road on the 30th March, 2023.
It will be recalled that the Parliament of Sierra Leone unanimously agreed to pass into law the Tobacco and Nicotine Act of 2022 on the 3rd August 2022. It is now over six months that the Parliamentarians acted but people are yet to know whether the President have assented it or not.
Giving an overview of the Workshop, Sulaiman Stom Koroma, the Consultant and Public Officer of FOCUS 1000 intimated that engagement was organized to give the Civil Society Organizations an idea about what the Bill is about.
According to him, Parliament passed the Tobacco and Nicotine Act into law stating that according to the law, after Parliament passes a Bill, the approval of the President is needed before it is been used.
He maintained that, from last year to now they have not seen the President signed it into law further disclosing that when they enquired from Parliament they responded by saying it was sent to the President.
“We are in a position wherein we cannot tell where the Bill is, or who is in possession of the Bill,” he lamented adding how they could not tell whether the President has signed it or not disclosing how it is against such a backdrop that they are calling on these CSOs to join them in the fight.
He said the need to pass the Tobacco and Nicotine Act came at a time when the country ratified the WHO framework on the Convention on Tobacco Control which is aimed at protecting present and future generations.
During the engagement, CSOs had the opportunity to learn about key provisions in the bill.
Civil Society Organizations who witnessed the engagement made lots of positive contributions as well as a passionate call on the President to sign the bill.
The representative of Defense for Children said cigarette smoking should be banned once and for all further expressing disappointment at the security forces saying instead of implementing the law they are also into cigarette smoking.
He maintained that some of those who make the law are in cigarette smoking, adding that there is a high level of hypocrisy in the country. He promised engaging his congregation on cigarette smoking and the harm that are related to it.
The Institute for Governance Reform representative, Gabor Gervai, noted that people must not wait for laws to be passed for them to protect their own lives stating that Tobacco and Nicotine can cause Cancer and the need for people to desist from it. “Don’t gamble your own lives,” he admonished.
Lynton O. R. D. Jones, Esq, who happens to be a Parliamentary Counsel and Legislative Drafter, explained in detail key provisions in the Act that the importers and other business people must follow. Lawyer Jones also pointed out the penalties attached for those who may disobey the law.
Head of Communicable Diseases, Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), Dr. Santigie Sesay revealed that tobacco-related products contain about 5,000 toxic substances, adding that the most dangerous compounds are nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide.
Dr. Sesay continued that tobacco causes various kinds of cancer in the human body, adding that tobacco kills half of those who smoke it. He added that smoking leads to disabilities and diseases, noting that it is harmful to every organ of the human body. “For anybody who dies of tobacco, it leaves 30 people with a serious illness,” he disclosed.
Dr. Sesay also mentioned that 3,300 deaths in Sierra Leone are attributed to tobacco, noting that 900 of the above figures died as a result of second-hand smoking.
He revealed that 4,000 children between ages 10 and 14 years, whereas, 955,000 adults aged 15 and above use tobacco daily.
“In 2017, tobacco cost Sierra Leone’s economy SLL 403. 9 billion (15% of its GDP),” Dr Sesay revealed.