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01.06.2004 General News

Tobacco consumption is the root cause of poverty - Akosa

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Accra, June 1, GNA - Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, on Tuesday said 84 per cent of the world's smokers live in developing countries where tobacco consumption was the root cause of poverty and ill health.

He said this was because money spent on tobacco was no more available for food, shelter, education and health care. Prof. Akosa said this when he launched this year's "World No Tobacco Day" in Accra. The day, which fell on May 31, is under the theme: "Tobacco and Poverty: A Vicious Circle". Tobacco use is a major cause of over 20 major categories of fatal and disabling diseases and preventable deaths leading to cancers, heart attacks and respiratory diseases.

Worldwide, statistics in the early 1990s indicated that 1.1 billion individuals used tobacco and this increased to 1.25 billion by 1998. The death toll from tobacco use is expected to reach 8.4 million by the year 2020, 70 per cent of which would occur in developing countries including Ghana.

Prof. Akosa noted that half of the projected deaths would affect people within the productive ages of 35 years to 69 years.

He expressed concern about the absence of legislation banning smoking of cigarettes in all public places, advertisement of tobacco products and imposition of high taxes on tobacco products.

He said this had been successful in the developed countries where 40 per cent of cigarette package 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 bill board adverts read, "Tobacco may be harmful to your health.

"The British American Tobacco despite its inability to put up bill boards in America, Britain and the developed countries has bill boards in strategic areas in Ghana with simple but intrusive messages", he said

Prof. Akosa said to address the legislation issue, Ghana needed to ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which had been approved by Cabinet and would be placed before Parliament. The FCTC, which was developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is the world's first treaty devoted to health to get people to kick out smoking and reduce the estimated five million deaths caused annually by smoking.

The FCTC treaty, which was adopted in 2003, by the World Health Assembly, has only nine out of 101 countries that signed it and only 40 ratified it for the treaty to come into force.

He appealed to the Parliamentarians to support the passage of the Bill on FCTC to save the lives of those who smoked and became addicted. Dr Melveille George, WHO Representative, said tobacco use increased poverty of individuals and families due to unrestricted and aggressive marketing and promotion of tobacco products by the tobacco industries. He paid tribute to all health promotion activities aimed at combating the health hazard and encouraged smokers to quit and those attempting to start not to do so.

Dr Seth Koranteng, Former Director of the Ghana Police Hospital, who chaired the function, said tobacco smoking was one time linked with the affluent "but surprisingly, it has now been linked with the low income earners".

He reiterated the need for all to join in the crusade against tobacco use, which had and continued to destroy the productive base of the country. 1 June 04

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