Akanu (V/R), Dec. 1, GNA- Strong and effective collaborations between relevant stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies have been identified as a key element in the fight against illicit trade in tobacco and tobacco products in the country.
This came to light during a capacity building workshop organised by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) for law enforcement agencies on the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
Ghana in 2021 ratified the Protocol and implementation started in 2022, and speakers at the training stressed that without collaboration it would be difficult for the country to effectively deal with the situation.
The training was held at Akanu in the Ketu North District of the Volta Region, and brought together officials from Ghana Immigration Service, Ghana Revenue Authority, and National Investigations Bureau.
Others were from Narcotics Control Commission, Attorney Generals Department, Economic and Organised Crime Office, National Security, Environmental Protection Agency and their French Counterparts at the Border
Dr Joana Ansong, Programmes Officer, Non-Communicable Diseases/Risk Factors, World Health Organisation, said the role of law enforcement agencies in the implementation of the Protocol was extremely important hence the training to orient them and build their capacity.
Dr Ansong said smuggling was by far the most significant type of illegal trade in tobacco and tobacco products, and cigarettes were amongst the commonly seized goods, and the global revenue potential from eliminating cigarettes estimated at US$47 billion.
The Programmes Officer said every stakeholder, including the citizens, must support the government to reduce the issue of illicit trade in tobacco products in the country to the barest minimum.
She said illicit trade in tobacco products reduced government revenue, weakened security, fostered corruption and organised crime and was also a serious threat to public health, thus the need for concerted effort to curb the situation.
Dr Mrs Olivia Agyekumwaa Boateng, Director, Tobacco and Substances of Abuse Directorate of FDA, disclosed that there two forms of tobacco, the smoked tobacco and the smokeless tobacco.
Mrs Boateng said as a regulator they would not relent on their efforts to enforce various policies to reduce the prevalence of these products in the country as they posed a great threat to the public.
She said there was no safe form of tobacco use, so irrespective of how one used it, there were dangers as the substances contained in them were very toxic and carcinogenic.
Mr Gordon Akurugu, Volta Regional Director of FDA, said strategies being used in recent times to transport such products into the country were “wonderful” so collaboration was key.
He disclosed that dealers in the products were now hiding the products in the bags of school children to cross the border, and some women were also being used to transport the products.
Mr Akurugu said FDA now ran a 24-hour operation at the borders in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, and that detention in tobacco products was much at Kpoglo and Aflao borders compared to other borders.
He told Ghana News Agency the training was to offer a common platform for the law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to share their experiences and enhanced collaboration for effective combat of the situation.
Dr Lex Kombat, Assistant Commissioner, Ghana Revenue Authority, noted that illicit trade in tobacco and tobacco products could promote international criminal activities.
He appealed to the citizens to join the fight against illicit trade in tobacco and tobacco products by volunteering information to relevant and appropriate authorities for action.