A day’s sensitization workshop has been held for some selected Ghanaian journalists in Accra. It was part of activities lined up by the Ministry of Health (MoH), the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and other stakeholders to mark this year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD 2015).
The World No Tobacco Day is marked on the 31st of May Every year by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners. The day is used to highlight the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocate for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.
The theme for this year’s WNTD is “Stop illicit trade of Tobacco Products”. It is to call on countries to work together to end the illicit trade of tobacco products since it has become a major global concern including health, legal and economic, governance and corruption.
The Programmes Director for Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), Mr. Labram Musah, told the journalists that the global tobacco industry is expanding its war against public health, beyond national courts and into the international arena, and that it is time governments understand these new threats, and stand together to defend their sovereignty and public health.
According to him, “As tobacco control takes hold, the industry continues to adjust its bullying tactics so that it can advance its ultimate aim: to hook a future generation of smokers”...“After attacking public health policies in national courts and via bilateral agreements, they are now enticing governments into doing their dirty work at the World Trade Organization”.
He said this is the reason Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates announced the launch of the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi in March this year to support countries facing tobacco industry law suits. The Fund is a new joint effort to combat the tobacco industry’s use of international trade agreements to threaten and prevent countries from passing strong tobacco-control laws.
Mr. Musah called on the Ministry of Finance to monitor the implementation of the 33% excise tax increase in tobacco products in Ghana. “VALD gathered that a pack of some cigarettes sold in Ghana is as low as (1.20p) and a single stick of cigarette cost as low as fifteen pesewas (0.15p), meanwhile cigarettes are sold as high as six dollars, fifty cent ($6.50) and above in other countries,” he stated.
He also called on Parliament to urgently ratify the WHO protocol on illicit trade in tobacco products as soon as it is presented on the floor of the House. He further urged state authorities to fast track work on Legislative Instrument needed for the enforcement of the Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Act (Act 851).
The Director of Disease Control and the Tobacco Control focal Person at the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Kyei Faried, said tobacco epidemic kills nearly six million people every year, about five million of which are users and ex users and more than 600,000 are non smokers exposed to second hand smoke.
“Tobacco is the only legal product that if used according to the manufactures specification will kill half of its users by age 65,” he stated.
He said the Article 15 of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) allows countries to address illicit trade in tobacco products by enacting legislations against illicit trade, developing tracking and tracing regimes and cooperating with other countries to monitor cross border trade in products. Countries are therefore enjoined to consider ratifying the WHO illicit Trade Protocol which has the objective of eliminating all forms of illicit trade in tobacco products.
The objective of the protocol is to among others “adopt and implement effective measures to control or regulate the supply chain of tobacco products in order to prevent, deter, detect, investigate and prosecute illicit trade in such goods and shall cooperate with one another to this end, as well as,
“Adopt effective measures for facilitating or obtaining technical assistance and financial support, capacity building and international cooperation in order to achieve the objectives of this protocol”.
He called on the media to encourage the public to say “No Tobacco” and spread the word “Don’t start” to reduce tobacco use.