Senegal parliament passes anti-smoking bill

DAKAR – The Senegalese parliament on Friday unanimously passed an anti-smoking law prohibiting smoking in public areas and banning all tobacco-related advertising.

Health Minister Awa Marie Cole Seck hailed the move, asserting that smoking was a growing threat to society that had to be combated.

"By unanimously voting for the law, MPs have helped Senegal move down the path towards protecting a vulnerable population," Seck told reporters.  

Several lawmakers and anti-smoking activists had demanded that the bill ban smoking altogether.

MP Mame Mbayame, who voted in favor of the bill, lamented the fact that it would still allow smoking in designated areas.

"These enclosed smoking areas won't help smokers as they will smoke their own cigarettes while inhaling the smoke of others," she said.

Anti-smoking groups had earlier urged lawmakers to pass "100-percent anti-smoking" legislation.

"If the bill leaves the possibility of having smoking areas, it will be a bit weak," Senegal's anti-smoking association said in a statement.

Association Vice-Chairman Amadou Moustapha Gaye agreed.

"This has no sense. The government has the duty to protect the population," he told Anadolu Agency.

"Senegal lacks the means to set up such non-smoking areas. A 100-percent non-smoking bill [banning all smoking outright] would be more competent," he said.

The law has led to massive debates among the West African nation's smoking community.

"I can accept that the law bans smoking in public spaces like theaters, bus stations, airports, etc.," 30-year-old smoker Cheikh Niang told AA.

"The only problem is that this law has been passed in a country where most people don't care about each other," Niang said.

"Passing the bill is a good thing; educating people to respect its provisions will be more difficult," he added.

Younger cigarette smokers, for their part, slammed the law as a violation of their personal freedoms.

"This is very shocking, to pass such a bill," said 22-year-old student Victor Faye. "Smoking is a matter of personal choice."

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