How do I put this in a more subtle way….well there is no easy way to put it. Our beloved county is in flames, the flames of Cigarettes, Marijuana and Shisha and other forms of drugs. I’m not upset that today you cannot walk two minutes without seeing a man puffing out smoke through his nostrils and mouth and what have you. I’m not upset that the drivers carelessly smoke in their vehicles regardless of who is discomforted.
Am not even upset that people think it is a matter of pride. What gets on my very last nerve is the fact that young boys, as young as 10 years old have the nerve to walk around with a cigarette because nobody does anything about it. Am upset that we live in a society, an African society where a child can misbehave publicly and people turn a blind eye.
What happened to the good old ways, when it was the responsibility of the entire village to raise a child? Have we strayed so far from our African culture that even at the detriment of our society, we keep mute? For God’s sake that little apprentice should not dare smoke a cigarette in the presence of adults! We sit in the van and quietly watch him burn his lungs, and we do not even flinch.
In case we have forgotten, tobacco, which is what makes up Cigarette and Shisha contains over 200 different poisonous substances including Cyanide, Carbon monoxide and Ammonia. Nicotine is the addictive substance found in drugs (and yes Shisha contains some amount of nicotine). Smoking is a major predisposing factor to Cancer (lung, liver, stomach, Cervix, Oesophagus to name a few), Coronary Heart disease, Stroke, COPD, Rheumatoid Arthritis and other life threatening diseases. Moreover, Cigarette smoking affects not only the one smoking, but those around as well. In fact, the passive smoker is twice at risk of suffering from cigarette-related-problems than the active smoker.
According to global statistics, tobacco epidemic kills six million people each year, of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing or inhaling second-hand smoke.
A few years ago, The Gambia banned tobacco advertisement in the mass media through the 2003 Anti-Tobacco Advertisement Bill and more importantly, the National Assembly unreservedly ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in June 2007. Banning of public smoking followed suit but all these actions—or rather noises—do not seem to deter children from smoking.
Isn’t it funny how ignorant we have become today, the more information we have? We are all aware of the countless implications of smoking (and please do not tell me Shisha is Okay). Yet, God forbid you mistakenly try to hit a boy smoking by the road. All hell will break loose when his parent shows up. Instead of being grateful for the disciplinary measure you took, you would be arrested and charged with child abuse. How unbelievable! Is there anyone more abusive than the one who lets the child do as he pleases?
The Society may think that it is civilisation to ‘mind one’s business ’.But does minding one’s business mean ignoring what’s wrong? The way I see it, it’s every citizen’s business to help shape the young ones. Don’t we say they are the leaders of tomorrow? Who will lead tomorrow, if all the youths roast their lungs and liver? Whatever happens to this country, to her people, is our business. This is our home. If it breaks, it breaks for us.
I want to implore the police forces to take action against child smoking. Maybe we should have a law banning it or something. Do we? Any child caught smoking should be held in Police custody, his parents fined and if caught in a restaurant or a vehicle, the owner must answer to the law. We cannot continue to pretend like this does not affect us all.
I also want to call the attention of the religious leaders. It is forbidden in Islam to smoke. How ironical it is that this country, with a 90 percent Muslim population has a high rate of smoking. And not only do people smoke, we do not shun the act. The holy scriptures order us to discourage evil acts. What happened to us?
The greatest burden lies on the shoulders of parents. As a child, my mother said to me; “Do not ever touch a Cigarette. If anyone sends you to the shop to buy it, say no. No matter who he is, say no”. I never strayed from that advice. Are parents still doing this? Those children who have the nerve to smoke persistently, where are their parents and what are they doing about it?It is so disheartening to see young boys who could be better citizens if they had a good upbringing destroy their lives in the streets shamelessly smoking.
This article may be read by few. Some may learn something from it, others may disagree. But if you agree with me, share the word. We must take action. We may not all be related by blood, but we share something we can never deny- A Common heritage. Go to Kairaba Avenue, the fast food restaurants and see the number of high school teenagers smoking Shisha. What about the countless smoking marijuana? The ones with the worst one, Cigarette? They call it ‘civilisation’ because of their level of immaturity, I call it ‘suicide’. The children may not understand the dangers involved, but we are their protectors. Are we protecting them by turning away?