Cigarettes and the view from The Gambia, West Africa
My friend who I work with in The Gambia, Mr. Ebrahima Mbowe, is located in Serrekunda. He has seen the previous blog on Australia's movement to plain packaging for cigarettes, and has answered some of my questions from The Gambia via Skype. (He does not smoke, and is currently a UN Volunteer. He is from The Gambia, and was the principal of a high school in Mansa Konko for many years.)
Q. Do people in The Gambia smoke much?
A. Yes, they smoke a great deal. I would guess the percentage is between 40 to 50 percent. But this is just a guess.
Q. Do they smoke instead of putting food on the table?
A. Some do, but the majority does not. They either do both or smoke for leisure.
Q. Do they buy a single cigarette at a time, or a pack?
A. This depends on who is smoking. If they can afford the pack, they go for it. But the school going age smokers depend on singles or sharing one cigarette.
Q. How many people in The Gambia who are under 18 smoke?
A. I would say about the same percentage as above.
Q. How much are cigarettes available? Only in the cities, or also in the provinces?
A. Cigarettes are available everywhere in The Gambia, even in the remotest corners of the country.
Q. Did they smoke more or less 50 or 60 years ago?
A. When I was young, there were hardly any school boy-girl cigarette smokers, but now they are rampant and almost problematic.
Q. Do people smoke because they are addicted?
A. About 10% of them.
Q. What about something to do with their hands, for example?
A. It makes the hands colored and smelly.
Q.Is smoking forbidden by Islam?
A. YES! All kinds of substances. (The Gambia is about 80% Muslim, 20% Christian.)
Q. Do people have any idea about the diseases cigarette smoking causes?
A. They do, because they are sensitized on it. Cigarette smoking is even banned in public places.
The effects of smoking are bad. There are cigarette smoking related deaths and very severe diseases. There are birth defects caused by smoking mothers, and it is also very bad on the person's control of his/her funds. When the craving comes, they would rather smoke than eat.
Q. Do you have any idea how these new cigarette cases would be accepted in The Gambia?
A. I suspect that they will be accepted with open arms.
Q. Have you heard any statistics about other countries - for example, how many people smoke in Senegal?
A. It is said to be worse in Senegal and other parts of Africa. The bigger the country, the worse smoking is.
As you can see, smoking is a problem around the world. As I said in my previous blog, this high court decision in Australia may be a world-impact decision.
As well as Americans, I would like to hear from KU and Kansas international students from different countries regarding this decision to change the packaging in Australia, as well as for other things which you regard as unusual or ahead-of-the-times for your country. Please press on my name above in the right hand corner to send an email to me.
My previous blog:
The New York Times article for today:
A view from The Gambia: