There is a strong advocacy for the implementation of Article 16 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which demands Parties to ensure that the sale of single sticks or small packs of tobacco products is prohibited by passing and enforcing appropriate legislation.
This is among the recommendations of a recent study conducted by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) and the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) in some ten capital cities in Africa including Accra, Ghana.
The result of the study confirms the belief that the enforcement of Ghana’s Tobacco Control Law (Act 851) is seriously challenged and that it is time for stakeholders to rise and take some action.
Labram Masawudu Musa of VALD, who is also the National Coordinator of the Ghana NCD Alliance (GhNCDA) presented the findings of the study at a press conference in Accra. He told Journalists that though Ghana’s tobacco control law bans smoking in public places except in a Designated Smoking Area (DSA) “unfortunately, nobody in restaurants, hotels, public places are adhering or making their facilities to comply with the tobacco control laws”.
To this effect, the study has concluded that stringent measures are necessary for lasting solutions to the problem of selling single sticks of cigarettes in Africa.
Since 2012 Ghana has promulgated a Public Health Act (Act 851) with provisions for controlling tobacco use in the country. The law regulates how cigarettes should be sold – it simply outlaws the sale of cigarette in single sticks. A Legislative Instrument (L.I) adopted by Parliament in 2017 was expected to make the law enforceable.
However, this new study has revealed that despite existing legislations in countries like Ghana the sale of cigarettes in single sticks in Accra and other cities that the study was conducted in was still rampant.
“The Tobacco Control focal points (officials designated specifically to work on, and serve as reference for tobacco control) working in government, and representatives of civil society organizations interviewed for this study agreed that there was enough circumstantial evidence of single stick sales and promotion in their countries to warrant further research on the phenomenon. This was true even though seven of the countries included in the study have laws that ban the sale of single sticks: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and Uganda,” the report revealed.
The report revealed that in every capital city covered by the survey, it was possible to purchase cigarettes in single sticks, and that Single sticks were made available for purchase when retailers intentionally opened a full pack of cigarettes to sell individual sticks.
Single sticks were also available from cigarette brands owned by British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI) and Imperial Brands.
It also came to light that School children are also being exposed to candy cigarettes in the form of cigarette aimed at encouraging new smokers. There was also open advertising of cigarettes by shops and hawkers near schools despite tobacco marketing restrictions.
A stick of Cigarette costs as low as 20p or 50p depending on the brand and is available on shelves along major streets and densely populated areas in Ghana against provisions of the law. This makes it more dangerous and a national public health issue.
Why the Sale of Single Stick of Cigarettes are Problematic
Single sticks are cheaper than a full pack of cigarettes and, consequently, make tobacco more affordable to youth and other individuals with limited resources.
Researchers examining youth smoking in Argentina found that the purchase of single cigarettes was more frequent among students from poor schools.
Sale of single stick cigarette facilitate experimentation among the youth who have not yet become regular smokers. This is one of the major reason why the tobacco industry vehemently opposes sale of cigarettes in a pack of 20 sticks.
The sale of single sticks also undermines existing effective tobacco control policies by limiting an individual’s exposure to health warning labels and lessening the impact of tobacco tax increases on cigarette packs. One of the measures to aid the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals is tax on tobacco products, it will serve as revenue stream for government and also discourages smoking and initiation.
Sale of single sticks undermines smokers’ efforts to quit. A study conducted in Mexico found that smokers who experience frequent cravings to smoke because of seeing single cigarettes for sale, are less likely to intend to quit when compared to smokers who do not experience such cues or cravings.
The VALD Angle
The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) – an NGO which is at the forefront of advocacy for tobacco control legislation in Ghana is of the view that stringent measures are necessary to provide lasting solutions to the problem of selling single sticks of cigarettes to children and exposing them to cigarette in Ghana and Africa.
VALD has therefore called on the Ghana government and its agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and all relevant authorities to take concrete steps to ensure that in line with Article 16 of the FCTC and the national tobacco control laws and regulations, the Ministry of Health and FDA ensure that the sale of single sticks of tobacco product is prohibited with immediate effect.
And that in line with Article 13 of the FCTC and the national tobacco control laws and regulations, the Ministry of Health and FDA comprehensively enforce the ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship which should include any advertising or promotional materials related to single sticks.
The authorities must also ensure that cigarettes are not sold close to educational institution, hospitals, children playing grounds and places where children are cared for, while also ensuring that aspects of the tobacco control laws and regulations protecting children are strictly adhered to.
They called on the British American Tobacco (BAT) and their allies to ensure that their retailers do not expose and sell tobacco to children.
It is the view of VALD that Ghana can achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by making tobacco control a national priority and dedicating funds to the implementation of the tobacco control laws.
In view of the above it is the recommendation of the report to governments in Africa to ensure that the sale of single sticks or small packs of tobacco product is prohibited by passing and enforcing appropriate legislation. It also urged governments to “ensure a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and this should include any advertising or promotional materials related to single sticks.
“Consider licensing of retail vendors of tobacco products to control the sale of single sticks,” the report stated.
GYTS and Shisha
The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) conducted in 2009 in Ghana, states that 12.5% of the country’s population then, use at least one tobacco product. Of the number, 14.0% are Males while 10.6% are Females.
Sadly, every year more than 3400 of people in Ghana are killed by tobacco-caused diseases, while more than 53,000 children and more than 75,000 adults continue to use tobacco each day according to the tobacco atlas.
Stakeholders are worried about a new trend which is the introduction of shisha/waterpipe tobacco which is being accepted by many of the youth in Ghana now.
Reports say Shisha is far dangerous than traditional cigarette and because of the shisha pipes and the water inside, it contributes to the spread of infectious and communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and hepatitis among others.
Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson || ghananewsonline.com.gh