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Let’s ban tobacco usage in Ghana-Dr Osei


  14 Septembre      13        Santé (14141),

   

Accra, Sept 14, GNA-Dr Akwasi Osei, the Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Authority (MHA), has charged the Government to ban tobacco usage in the country because it is killing more people annually.

He said, “I know it is not going to be easy but the evidence is clear and scientists also agree that tobacco is killing people so why don’t we hold the bull by the horn and place a ban on tobacco use in the country.”

Dr Osei made the call at a stakeholders’ meeting on tobacco control organised by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) in collaboration with developmental partners in Accra.

Data available indicated that more than 6,700 Ghanaians die annually from tobacco-related illnesses.

Out of this figure, 4,422 representing 66 per cent died prematurely under age 70 while 1,206 representing 18 per cent lost their lives due to exposure to second-hand smoke.

The CEO of MHA said, “death due to tobacco is preventable, that is why we should not leave ourselves, 4 per cent of Ghanaians to die from tobacco. It should not be part of the worldwide picture of eight million tests a year,” he added.

Dr Osei noted that tobacco use even though brought some form of benefits such as relieving restlessness and anxiety to smokers, the damage it caused far outweighed the benefits, thus cautioned people against it.

He said people must therefore find ways of dealing with their depression, anxiety, and restlessness as the continuous use of a particular drug could lead to addiction, adding that, “addiction predisposes one to other types of mental illnesses”.

The meeting formed part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), needs assessment in Ghana to identify gaps and provide recommendations on how to address these gaps.

It also sought to provide expert contributions and mobilise resources to support implementation of the WHO FCTC to contribute to the achievement of wider Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Dr Baffour Awuah, Acting Director of Technical Coordination and Special Advisor on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) to the Minister of Health, speaking at the event, said the Government was exploring the adoption of comprehensive smoke free policies and had ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.

He said the needs assessment mission in Ghana offers an opportunity to identify the rhythmic changes in tobacco control to enable the country to modify the best approach to curb the growing menace.

Dr Awuah said the Ministry of Health, requested for the needs assessment to assess the country’s progress in the implementation of the WHO FCTC treaty whilst determining the gaps between the requirements of the treaty and the tobacco control measures adopted by Ghana over the last decade.

He thus commended the efforts of the coordinating team, the FDA, UNDP and WHO in moving the project forward.

Ms Emily Roberts, a Policy Analyst with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noted that Ghana was losing GHS668 million every year due to tobacco use.

She said investing now in tobacco control measures would prevent more than 20,000 deaths and avert GHS1.3 billion economic losses by 2037.

Ms Roberts said it was important that Ghana implemented FCTC policy actions, including increasing tobacco taxation to reduce the affordability of tobacco products and create smoke-free public and workplaces to protect people from the harms of tobacco smoke.

She called on the Government to implement the plain packaging of tobacco products, enforce a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to win against the menace.

The Policy Analyst, among other things, recommended the development of a national tobacco control strategy to strictly enforce the prohibition of the sale of tobacco to minors.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer, FDA, Seth K. Seneake, said the Authority was focused on enforcing the ban on tobacco advertising and promotion, implementing pictorial health warnings, ratification of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Tobacco Trade and mass media campaigns on tobacco dangers.

He noted that the WHO FCTC’s needs assessment would help in developing the requisite legislation to address the rapidly evolving facets of tobacco control.

Dr Olivia Boateng, Director, Tobacco and Substances Abuse Directorate and Focal Person for Ghana WHO FCTC Secretariat, said the country had made much effort towards tobacco control.

But that notwithstanding, more efforts are being made to enhance the weak tobacco tax structure and cessation to attain the WHO recommendations.

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