The Ministry of Health will, by next month, announce a ban on smoking in public places.
That is the first step in the ministry's bid to protect non-smokers, including children, from the deadly effects of tobacco. Passive smoking or the inhaling of second-hand smoke has been proved to be as dangerous as smoking itself, since it also causes serious illnesses such as heart and lung diseases, as well as cancers.
In a speech read on his behalf at a stakeholders sensitisation workshop on the ban on smoking in public and workplaces held in Accra, a Deputy Minister of Health, Mr. Abraham Dwoma Odoom, said in spite of the challenges that the ministry was likely to face, it had to embark on the ban to protect non-smokers from tobacco-related diseases and possible death.
The day's workshop was organised by the Coalition of Non-governmental Organisations for Tobacco Control (CNTC) to highlight the public health implication of secondhand smoking, as well as secure the commitment of participants to support the ban and help implement it, especially at their individual places.
The participants, who formed groups to brainstorm on the way forward, included medical practitioners, researchers, people in the hospitality and tourism industries, journalists and artistes.
Mr Odoom said it had become necessary for Ghana to take a bold step towards a tobacco-free society, since the country was among the 150 countries which had ratified the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), adding that signatories to the convention were expected to be committed to effective action against tobacco.
He mentioned some of the likely challenges that the ministry would face when the ban became effective, namely the fear of economic loss by key stakeholders whose interventions could make a difference• in reducing the extent of exposure, as well as lack of adequate formal networks that could adequately support country-wide implementation.
He expressed the hope that all stakeholders would support the ministry in the area of information sharing, awareness creation and mobilisation of support in dealing with those challenges.
The Chairman for the function, Dr Akwasi Osei, complained about the attitude of some individuals who took delight in creating health problems for the rest of society because they smoked in public.
He advised that it was important they stop smoking to protect themselves from ill health, adding that if they insisted on smoking, then they should do it in such a way that others would not be affected.
The Director of Human Resource at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Ebenezer Appiah Denkyira, said there was overwhelming consensus among medical and scientific authorities worldwide that secondhand smoke was a major threat to health, adding that the only effective way to prevent the problem was to have comprehensive smoke-free airways covering all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues.
The acting Vice-President of CNTC, Mr Oscar Bruce, said tobacco currently killed more than five million people world-wide, adding that roughly 14 people died a day through smoking.
The Focal Person on Tobacco.
Control, Mrs Edith Wellington, expressed gratitude to the coalition for supporting the fight for tobacco-free society, noting that there was the need to continue with the fight for future generations.