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14.02.2006 General News

GHS unhappy with delay in passage of Tobacco Bill

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Accra, Feb. 14, GNA - Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), on Tuesday expressed regret about the delay in the passage of the bill on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The bill, if passed would address issues such as advertisement, sponsorship and warning to prevent people especially the youth from accessing tobacco and tobacco products, has been with the Cabinet since July 2005.

Prof Akosa expressed his regret at GHS's monthly health promotion talk held in Accra on the theme: "Why smoking is not wise." He said Ghana was the 37th country 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 to kick out smoking and reduce the estimated five million deaths annually caused by smoking. He said tobacco use was a major cause of over 20 major categories of fatal and disabling diseases and preventable deaths leading to cancers, heart attacks and respiratory diseases.

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 of 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, 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 said many countries like Kenya and Uganda had succeeded in banning smoking from public places and even ensured that warning inscriptions were printed boldly on cigarettes. "The absence of legislation to ban smoking of cigarettes in all public places, advertisement of tobacco products and imposition of high taxes on tobacco products is just not doing us any good but rather giving the tobacco manufacturers the opportunity to penetrate our market", he said.

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 billboard adverts read: "Tobacco may be harmful to your health.

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

Prof. Akosa noted that a task team of health officials from Ghana was in Geneva on the issue and would draw up measures when they returned to ensure that the bill was passed.

Dr Samuel Ohene, a Psychiatry Lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School, 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 said many people especially the youth also saw film stars as their role models and tended to depict whatever they saw them do on the screens whether good or bad adding "some of these stars are always seen as heroes at the end of the film and has increased the number of youth involved in smoking".

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.

He said a stick of cigarette contained over 4,000 chemicals which when inhaled could result in cardiovascular diseases, cancer of the kidney, lung breast, pancreas, bladder and bronchitis and emphysema among other diseases.

"Smoking in pregnant women could also result in low birth weight of the baby, pre-mature birth and could even destroy the foetus", he said. He reiterated the need for smokers to be firm and to quit to make the country tobacco-free and called on all to join forces to fight this practice since "it destroys the human body". 14 Feb. 06

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