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09.12.2004 Feature Article

Ghana Joins Efforts To Curtail Smoking: A Rejoinder

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What a joy to read from Ghanaweb that Ghana has joined the enlightened and health conscious nations to curtail smoking in public places in Ghana. Some of us who have championed public health issues have been waiting for this kind of leadership for quite a while. Congratulations, Mr. Kufour and your government, this is a move in the right direction.

On September 8, 2003 Ghanaweb published my article on smoking at Kotoka International Airport captioned Ghana Civil Aviation Authority Encourages Smoking. The reviews of the article were very encouraging the entire world over. It gave me the impression that there were like-minded individuals who wanted to see the curtailment of smoking in public places, especially enclosed areas such as the waiting areas at KIA that I referred to in my article, which is attached for ease of reference.

Out of concern for people in my country and the apparent lack of ever receiving any attention from the Ghanaian authorities I ended the article with the following utterances: Where is the Health Ministry? Give us the positive change now. We need smoke free waiting areas at Kotoka International Airport.

I believe the move by the Kufour administration to join the efforts to curtail smoking in public places has put my concerns at rest. This is a government that listens and I raise my hat to all who have worked tirelessly to get us where we are now. I know that the tobacco companies will try as much as they can to whittle down the good efforts of the government, but I hope that policy implementers in Ghana will do their best to uphold the health of the people of the nation. The truth of the mater is that most of these multi-national tobacco companies care little about the health of the people of Ghana since their major concern is profit maximization. I live and work in a tobacco-free environment and it is my wish that my compatriots would enjoy the same clean environment. As I stated in my September 2003, article, the State of New York, for instance has an excellent health awareness program that barns smoking in restaurants and every public place including entrances to public building. Ghana's health budget and health facilities are no match to that of New York State and yet Ghana has been toying with the health of her people. Thank God that we have an administration that has risen to meet this health challenge in the nation. Let me end by emphasizing this point that I believe in the right of smokers to blacken their lungs and suffer all the consequences of smoke related health problems. However, I strongly believe that non-smokers, especially children, should have the right to breathe clean and fresh air free from tobacco pollutants. Dr. Frank Essien New York, USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Attachment GHANA CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY ENCOURAGES SMOKING (Published by Ghanaweb September 8, 2003) I had wanted to write about my concern regarding this issue to the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, but decided to go this route because I believe it will get the best of attention.

At an era when even advanced nations with superior healthcare facilities are concerned about the implications of second hand smoke, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) encourages smoking at the waiting areas in the restricted zones at the airport. I believe in the right of smokers to blacken their lungs and suffer all the consequences of smoking related health problems. However, I strongly believe that non-smokers especially children should have the right to breath freely. This fundamental right to free breathing is under serious attack at Kotoka International Airport (KIA).

The seriousness of the smoke pollution at KIA hit me like a boulder on August 21, 2003. There was a long delay at KIA due to a temporary closure of the airport. It was at that time that children (including mine) and other passengers were subjected to the indignation of having to contend with cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke from mostly non-Ghanaian smokers. I personally spoke to each of the six individual smokers who had turned the impressively reconstructed waiting area into a smoking den. Four of them were from Eastern Europe, one from the Netherlands and the other from Texas. While most agreed with me that smoking was not permitted at such waiting areas in their countries of origin, the guy from Texas put it in a very simple and touching way, which made me feel ashamed of my own nation's authorities. This is what he said:

“Well, smoking is not allowed in the waiting areas at the airport in Texas, you are right, Sir, but here your authorities say we can smoke.”

He was right, because there was a sign clearly designating the area as a Smoking Zone.

How could authorities at Ghana Civil Aviation pretend as if they are not aware of the well-documented and scientifically supported world-views about the dangers of second-hand smoking? You cannot control the diffusion of tobacco smoke in such an enclosed area, could you? I am convinced that the powers at GCAA are aware of the smoking restrictions in many countries especially in the United States. The irony of the situation is that most of these smokers GCAA is kowtowing to are non-Ghanaians. Is the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority more interested in the smoking pleasures of these expatriates than the health of all others especially Ghanaians? I believe the era of doing everything to please the 'obroni' at the expense of all others especially the Ghanaian is long gone. Did I hear about a positive change in Ghana? Well, let us see that at KIA. It is a fact that second hand-smoking kills. Advanced nations like the US are protecting their nationals from the ravages of second-hand smoking and it is time Ghana learned from them. Let the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority take the lead with strong prompting from the Ministry of Health. Just partitioning the same area into smoking and non-smoking zones would not work. It did not work during the days when smoking was allowed at the rear on aircrafts. Presently in some nations, smoking is not allowed in restaurants. The State of New York, for instance, has an excellent public health awareness program that barns smoking in restaurants and every public place including the entrances to public buildings. Ghana's health budget is no match to that of New York State yet we are toying with the health of our people. Wake up, people! Let the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority rise to the occasion. Where is the Health Ministry of Ghana? Give us that positive change now. We need smoke free waiting areas at Kotoka International Airport.

Dr. Frank Essien New York, USA [email protected]

Frank Dr. Essien
Frank Dr. Essien, © 2004

The author has 3 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: FrankEssien

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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