VALD commends Food and Drugs Authority FDA as Ghana Joins the world to implement Pictorial Health Warnings on Cigarette Packages

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The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) wishes to express it profound appreciation to the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) for keeping to its commitments of introducing Pictorial Health Warnings (PHWs) on Ghana’s cigarette packages.

The introduction of PHWs on tobacco products is highly essential to reaching smokers with low education and literacy and will help to reduce disparities in health knowledge. Health warnings on tobacco packages constitutes an important method to inform and educate the public about the harms of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. It is important to also note that Ghana has many languages, out of which only 9 are spoken and written in schools, as such rolling out cigarettes in Ghana with picture warnings will enable smokers to appreciate the dangers associated with smoking, other than text only warning which previously appeared on Ghana’s tobacco packs.

Currently, Pictorial Health Warnings on tobacco packages have been adopted and implemented by many African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Namibia, Senegal, Seychelles etc.

Health messages on tobacco packages deliver important information directly to smokers. The messages repeated and reinforced every time a smoker reaches for a tobacco product. Pictorial warning labels can motivate smokers to quit, discourage non-smokers from starting and keep ex-smokers from starting again.

Pictorial Health Warnings contribute in the long term, to reducing tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, hence improve public health.

The Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act of 2012 (Act 851) and Tobacco Control
Regulations of 2016 (LI 2247) mandates the Tobacco Industries to implement pictorial health warnings on all tobacco products packages in Ghana within eighteen month after the FDA has made the source document containing the health warnings. On April, 2017 the FDA made the source documents available to the tobacco industry to work towards implementing the pictures on the cigarettes packages. It is important to note that the timelines for the implementation of the PHWs as approved at a tobacco control stakeholders meeting in 2017 indicated that by 1st October 2018, the tobacco industry must discontinue sale of old tobacco products without approved Graphic health warning or PHWs.

Ghana started the implementation of text only warning on cigarettes packages in 2010. The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) shows a downward trend in smoking among Junior High School Students, 3.6% smoked cigarette in 2009 while 2.8% smoked cigarette in 2017. However 5.3% of the JHS students smoke shisha higher than traditional cigarettes in 2017.

It is our hope that with the introduction of pictures on the cigarettes packages, the smoking prevalence will reduce.

VALD wishes to commend the Ministry of Health, Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Health Service, World Health Organization country office, the Global Tobacco Control Community, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and other stakeholders who contributed to this success.

VALD hope that in coming days the Food and Drugs Authority will work with relevant stakeholders to put in appropriate monitoring framework to effectively monitor the implementation.

Labram Musah, Programmes Director of Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and National Coordinator, Ghana NCD Alliance. 0243 211854 labrammusah@valdghana.org

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