(JollofNews) – Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Wednesday, health authorities in The Gambia have issued a grim warning about the devastating consequences of tobacco smoking.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, the press and information officer of the World Health Organization’s Banjul office, Alhaji Momodou Gassama, said a staggering 600 people died of tobacco related illness in 2014 in The Gambia.

Tobacco-related illness is one of the biggest public health threats the world faces, killing more than seven million people a year, according to statistics from the WHO.

The theme for this year’s event is tobacco- a threat to development.

Speaking to APA, the director of health promotion, Modou Njai said the prevalence rate among young Gambians is high, describing the situation as worrisome.

Njai said most of the deaths due to lung cancer which is linked to tobacco use is high and affects victims between the ages of 25 and 45.

In her message on the eve of World No Tobacco Day, the WHO regional director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said the cost of healthcare for the African region from tobacco smoking is pegged at 3.5 percent of total health expenditure each year.

She added that growing tobacco diverts agricultural land that could otherwise be used for food, impacting on food insecurity and under-nutrition.

She called on all Gambians to help make a sustainable, tobacco-free world, either by never using tobacco products, or by quitting the habit.

“Protect your health and that of people exposed to second-hand smoking, including children, other family members and friends” Dr. Moeti added.

Source: APA