WNTD 2018: Tobacco Kills, Invest adequate resources to reduce the deaths and suffering of millions

Tobacco use continues to be the leading global cause of preventable deaths. Its influence extends 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 8 million people globally each year by 2030-and to take a staggering 1 billion lives in this century.

The focus of this year’s WNTD will be on cardiovascular health. Tobacco use is a known and important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease, etc.

According to WHO, CVD is the leading cause of death worldwide and 12% of all heart disease deaths are contributed by active and passive smoking.

Despite the known harms of tobacco to heart health, and the availability of solutions to reduce related death and disease, knowledge among large sections of the public that tobacco is one of the leading causes of CVD is low.

WHO encourages parties to organize campaigns to increase the awareness on the link between tobacco and heart diseases, and on the feasible measures that can be adopted by the government and the public to reduce heart health risks imposed by tobacco.

Every cigarette you smoke makes you more likely to get heart disease. Roughly 1 out of 5 deaths from heart disease is directly related to smoking. People who smoke are two to four times more likely to get heart disease.

Secondhand smoke is a much greater problem than many people realize. There is no evidence of a safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke negatively affects cardiovascular health by decreasing exercise endurance, damaging blood vessel walls, and increasing the tendency of blood platelets to clot, contributing to heart attacks. Exposure to secondhand smoke remains one of the world’s most critical environmental health hazards, and is more harmful than all other indoor-air contaminants.

The advent of Shisha is now taken over the youth. Shisha tobacco contains cigarette tobacco, so like cigarettes it 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.

Today, as we observe the World No-Tobacco Day 2018, the Vision for Alternative Development, the Ghana NCD Alliance and other CSOs in Health wish to commend some efforts of government aimed at addressing some provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) through the development of national laws and regulations including the passage of Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act (Act 851) of 2012 and adoption of the Tobacco Control Regulations (LI 2247) of 2016.

Though some efforts have been made by government to enforce the tobacco control law, a lot more cost effective or no cost measures can be implemented to reduce tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

We therefore wish to urgently call on the Ministry of Health and all relevant authorities to ensure a comprehensive implementation of the national tobacco control laws and the FCTC as follows:

1. Ensure that all public places including hotels, restaurants, bus terminal etc. are completely smoke-free.
2. Ban shisha tobacco use because it’s highly toxic and dangerous to human health, many countries have banned it, so can we. Our youth are at risk if nothing is done immediately.
3. The Ministry of Health should work with the Ministry of Finance to increase tobacco taxes. Interestingly cigarettes still remains one of the cheapest commodity in Ghana, as low as GHC1.50pesewas a person can buy a pack of cigarette containing 10 sticks and as low as 20pesewas a stick of cigarette can be bought.
4. Consciously design a programme to protect our kids from exposure to tobacco smoke. To protect kids from scourge of tobacco, the law bans minors from all kinds of exposure to tobacco. Health and educational institutions and places where children are cared for must be smoke free. Sadly, our kids are on a daily basis exposed to tobacco especially around educational institutions.
5. The Ministry of Health should as a matter of urgency facilitate the ratification of the WHO FCTC Illicit Trade Protocol which is gathering dust at the Ministry.
6. The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance should also 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 smoker especially the poor and children from access.
7. The National Cessation Guidelines were adopted last year but yet to be implement, many want to quit smoking as such we urge government to support the implementation of the guidelines. The tobacco industry is responsible for all the global deaths of 8million people annually and suffering of millions of people from tobacco use. It is therefore just appropriate to call on the Ministry of Health to reject any partnership with the Phillip Morris International Foundation (PMI) for Smoke free world and direct all institutions especially research and academics not to accept any funding or support from the PMI Foundation. Big tobacco industry has aggressively fought all life saving measures aimed at protecting the world from scourge of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.

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.

We would like to take this opportunity to humbly call on His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana Nana Akufo Addo to prioritize Ghana’s participation in the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non communicable Disease on 27th September, 2018 to support the Global Commitment and actions to reduce the burden of NCDs especially in 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.

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