The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and other civil society organisations in health have commended Government for its efforts to address parts of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in the country.
They mentioned some of the efforts as the passage of the Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act (Act 851) of 2012 and the adoption of the Tobacco Control Regulations (LI 2247) of 2016.
It, however, said though some strives have been made by the Government to enforce the tobacco control law, a lot more could be implemented to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke in the country.
The commendation was made in a statement issued by Mr Labram Musah, the Programmes Director of VALD and the Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance and copied to the Ghana News Agency on the occasion of the 2018 World No-Tobacco Day.
The Day was on the theme: “Tobacco and Heart Disease” and is being focused on cardiovascular diseases, which include coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, among others.
The statement said the influence of tobacco has extended into all corners of the globe, threatening lives and livelihoods and endangering the health and prosperity of developed and developing nations alike.
“Left unchecked, tobacco is predicted to kill more than eight million people globally each year by 2030 and will take a staggering one billion lives in the 21st century,” it said, adding that “despite the known harm of tobacco to heart health, and the availability of solutions to reduce related death and disease, knowledge among large section of the public that tobacco is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases is low.”
The statement said according to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death worldwide, and that 12 per cent of all heart disease deaths were contributed by active and passive smoking.
It said another looming danger was the advent of shisha, which has taken over the youth, saying that, shisha also like cigarette tobacco, contains nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide and heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead.
“Shisha smokers are at risk of the same kinds of diseases as cigarette smokers, such as heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and problems during pregnancy,” the statement said.
It called on the Ministry of Health and relevant authorities to urgently ensure a comprehensive implementation of the national tobacco control laws and the FCTC, to ensure that all public places including hotels, restaurants, bus terminals, among others are completely smoke-free.
The statement said shisha tobacco is highly toxic and dangerous to human health, which posed a risk to the Ghanaian youth and should be banned immediately as some countries have done.
It urged the Ministry to work closely with the Ministry of Finance to increase tobacco taxes, as a way of helping to minimise the patronage of cigarette, stating that “interestingly cigarettes still remains one of the cheapest commodity in Ghana, as low as GH¢1.50 pesewas a pack, and being sold at 20 pesewas per stick.”
“The Ministry should consciously design a programme to protect our kids from exposure to tobacco smoke, thus health and educational institutions and places where children are cared for must be smoke-free,” the statement said.
It called on the Ministry to facilitate the ratification of the WHO FCTC Illicit Trade Protocol while it should together with the Ministry of Finance consider the proposal to introduce health promotional tax otherwise known as ‘Sin tax’ on tobacco, alcohol and sugary products, to finance health, and also discourage smokers, especially the poor and children.
The statement urged the Government to support the implementation of the National Cessation Guidelines, which was adopted last year to encourage cigarette smokers to quit the practice.
It blamed the tobacco industry for the global deaths of eight million people annually and the sufferings of millions.
The statement therefore, called on the Ministry of Health to reject any partnership with the Phillip Morris International Foundation and direct all institutions, especially research and academics not to accept any funding or support from the Foundation.
“Tobacco use harms the world’s most vulnerable populations and retards country development, therefore it is incumbent for government to effectively implement the FCTC if we wish to achieve Goals ‘3’ of the Sustainable Development Goal,” it said.
The statement appealed President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo to prioritize Ghana’s participation in the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non-communicable Disease (NCD) on September 27, 2018, to support the global commitment and actions to reduce the burden of NCDs, especially in the developing countries, including Ghana.
“We have had enough, the time to act is now, our right to health have been denied for far too long,” it said.