Ensure Tobacco Industry does not make Ghana and Africa a Market for their Products – Health Minister

The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyemang Manu, has urged all stakeholders to ensure that the tobacco industry does not succeed in making Ghana and to a large extent the African continent a market for their products.

He said though a lot has been done in Ghana to control tobacco use, there is the need for major interventions to be pursued with commitment and determination in the area of policies in the interest of people’s health and well-being.

“We need to effectively enforce our policies and laws, and to explore all relevant means and strategies so as to effectively reduce the suffering caused by smoking, in each and every region and country in Africa.

“Africa including Ghana is at the heart of the Sustainable Development agenda but, also seen as a growth market for the tobacco industry. We must all be mindful of this and position ourselves to ensure that the tobacco industry does not succeed in making Africa a market for their products,” the made this statement in a speech read on his behalf by Dr. Baffuor Awuah at a Stakeholders meeting on Global Challenges Research Fund for Tobacco Control Capacity Program (GCRF TCCP) held recently in Kumasi.

Ghana has so far made some significant progress in tobacco control including the passage of the Public Health Act of 2012, which is the primary tobacco control legislation; the Tobacco Control Regulations (Ll. 2247) in 2017, among others. Ghana was also among the first countries to become a party to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2005.

Agyemang Manu revealed also that, Ghana “has ratified the illicit trade protocol, which is to come into force in September this year. We have further harmonised the rules for tobacco products throughout our internal market, and fulfil our common international obligations on tobacco control such as raising tobacco taxes, introduction of pictorial health warning on cigarette packs, public smoking ban and training of law enforcement agencies on the implementation and enforcement of the tobacco control regulations”.

On tobacco taxes the Minister revealed that “while Ghana applies the highest rates in the ECOWAS region the price of cigarettes remains widely reasonable and single stick sales particularly to young adults is significant. Also, smoke-free policies exist, but the levels of compliance are quite low. Research is therefore needed to fill these gaps in tobacco control in Ghana such as identifying optimal tobacco taxation for Ghana, reducing the illicit trade in tobacco products and also strengthening existing smoke-free policies to make them more comprehensive”.

The meeting called under the auspices of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)’s School of Public Health discussed the research agenda related to Tobacco control in Ghana.

The GCRF TCCP aims to bring down smoking rates in less well-off countries by conducting research to inform tobacco taxation, tackle illicit trade in tobacco and also target tobacco companies’ efforts to undermine governments’ attempts to reduce smoking.

At the meeting stakeholders reflected on the successes in Ghana’s tobacco control stories over the past years, and the way forward. They lauded the GCRF TCCP which aims to collectively engage cutting-edge research to reduce tobacco-related harm in low and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia.

Olivia Boateng of the Foods and Drugs Authority (FDA) in a presentation, noted that the enforcement of Ghana’s Tobacco Control legislations lies largely on the shoulders of the Authority and they have been doing a lot in that regard. She said since the law was enacted in 2012 her outfit has carried out a lot of monitoring activities both in the day and at night.

Mindful of the ban on smoking in public places as stated in the law, the FDA says it is in touch with officials of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) to ensure that people do not smoke in public transport terminals. They are providing no-smoking signposts in all lorry stations in the country.

She said they are yet to come across any firms in Ghana selling e-cigarettes in wholesale and that once they come across such, they would apply the sanctions as stated in the law.

Present at the meeting were representatives from the College of Health Sciences, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Ghana Health Service, Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), Media Alliance in Tobacco Control and Health (MATCOH), the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), experts in public health, Guests from the UK, and other professional associations and civil society.

The World Health Organisation estimates that tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year, with majority of tobacco-related deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries.

Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson || ghananewsonline.com.gh


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