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04.06.2010 Health

Pass tobacco control bill into law - Coalition

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Accra, June 3, GNA - Members of Media Alliance in Tobacco Control (MATCO) in collaboration with the Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health, has urged government to expedite action on the passage of the Tobacco Control Bill into law.

The bill seeks to ban tobacco advertisement as well as other activities that promote the use of tobacco in the country.

Speaking at a media briefing in Accra on Thursday, Mr Issah Ali, Chief Executive Officer of Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and a member of MATCO stated that the country had failed to meet its obligation under the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in the implementation of a comprehensive ban on tobacco promotion in 41 countries including Ghana.

He said while Ghana had still not passed the bill into law, other countries like Niger, Kenya and South Africa had successfully passed the bill into law to effectively regulate the use of tobacco in these countries.

Mr Ali expressed concern that even though the bill had been in existence since 2005, government seemed to pay less attention to its swift passage into law.

He said the economic cause of tobacco use were overwhelming and in addition to high health cost involved in treating tobacco caused- diseases, tobacco killed people at the height of their productivity.

"Ghana's health facilities cannot cope with diseases caused by tobacco. The nation is facing serious challenges dealing with malaria, tuberculosis, maternal and child mortality, it would be disastrous to add cancers and other diseases," he reiterated.

Mr Ali was of the view that the call by the Health Minister, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor to increase taxes on tobacco was in the right direction, adding that the money could be used to fund treatment of tobacco related diseases, programmes and the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Mr Solomon Onubuogu, Vice Chairman, Ghana Coalition of NGOs in Health, urged government to increase the political will and commitment in the fight against tobacco use in the country.

He commended authorities of Custom, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) in their continuous effort in curbing the smuggling of tobacco and other illegal drugs into the country.

Mr Nortey Dua, a Clinical Psychologist and Media Practitioner stated that apart from government's provision of health insurance services, government should provide an avenue to reduce tobacco related diseases by implementing the bill into law.

"We are signing our own death warrant if we do nothing to ensure the passage of the bill," he said.

He said film producers were also promoting the use of tobacco especially on screens where young women were seen smoking in films.

Mr Dua noted that women could fight for gender equity on issues affecting them but not to compete with men in smoking.