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15.12.2006 General News

Government is being insensitive to smoking ban

Government is being insensitive to smoking ban
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Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has said government was exhibiting insensitivity in the campaign to ban smoking from public places.

He said it was sad that the health of the people had not been of importance to government.

"Tobacco smoking is causing a lot of harm to the health of our people and its use is a major cause of over 20 major categories of fatal, disabling diseases and preventable deaths leading to cancers, heart attacks and respiratory diseases," he added.

Prof. Akosa said this at a day's dissemination seminar on a study conducted on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Accra.

He said countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Benin and the developed countries had succeeded in banning smoking from public places and even ensured that warning inscriptions were printed boldly on cigarettes.

A stick of cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals which when inhaled could result in cardiovascular diseases, cancer of the kidney, lung breast, pancreas, peptic, bladder, bronchitis and emphysema among others.

"The absence of legislation to ban smoking of cigarettes in all public places, advertisements of tobacco products and imposition of high taxes on tobacco products is just not doing us any good but rather (making) the tobacco manufacturers penetrate our market," Prof. Akosa said.

The survey was to assess Ghana's readiness for tobacco control measures as evidenced by indicators such as knowledge of health effects of tobacco use, support for implementation of the provisions of the FCTC by key opinion leaders, which include policy makers, media personnel, parliamentarians and the civil society groups.

He said this had been successful in developed countries where 40 per cent of a cigarette pack bears inscriptions of the harmful effects of tobacco smoking.

"It is very unfortunate and sad that in Ghana less than 10 per cent of the packages bear such inscriptions while billboard adverts reading, 'Tobacco may be harmful to your health' are written in tinny words.

"I feel incredibly betrayed after waging a one-man war against tobacco use and you will seem not to be getting the support from your government and I feel so sad about this."

He explained that 45 per cent of the population in the three Northern regions were addicted to smoking and described the situation as a very serious one which when not controlled would get out of hand claiming the lives Ghanaians especially the youth.

A survey which was conducted by the Health Research Unit of GHS in the Junior Secondary Schools throughout the country on 2,000 pupils, showed that 14.3 per cent of the pupils had ever smoked cigarettes before the age of 18 years, with 4.9 per cent of the pupils currently still smoking.

Prof. Akosa expressed regret about the delay in the passage of the draft bill on the FCTC, which Ghana ratified in 2003 and suggested that in the absence of the bill "Government could still ban smoking in public places whilst waiting for the passage of the bill".

The bill, if passed, would address issues such as advertisements, sponsorship and warning to prevent people especially the youth from accessing tobacco and tobacco products. It has been with the Cabinet since last year July.

Ghana was the 37th to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control FCTC) developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

FCTC treaty adopted in 2003 by the World Health Assembly is the world's first treaty devoted to health to get people kick out of smoking and reduce the estimated five million deaths annually caused by smoking.

Prof. Akosa said there were 1.3 billion smokers worldwide with 4.9 million people dying each year.

He said it was unfortunate that smoking and death had reduced in the developed world where this aspect of social vice originated from and had risen in poorer countries where women and young children were the most affected.

He reiterated the need for smokers to be firm and quit to make the country a free tobacco one and called on all to join forces to fight this practice since "it destroys the human body".

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