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General News
Concern over delay of tobacco law 1/31/2007
Accra, Jan. 30, 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 law to the ban smoking in public places.

"Somebody is sitting on it, working so seriously to prevent the Tobacco bill from being passed into law and I want them to prove me wrong."

He said it was sad that though many Ghanaians were in support of the campaign to pass the law that would among other things ban smoking in public places, the process was being delayed. Prof. Akosa said this at a day''s dissemination seminar on a study conducted on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) for religious groups in Accra. Present at the seminar were representatives from the Christian Council of Ghana; Catholic Secretariat; Federation of Muslim Councils; Ghana Muslim Mission; Charismatic Churches and Coalition of Muslim Organisations

He explained that "tobacco smoking caused a lot of harm to the health of the people and its use was a major cause of over 20 major categories of fatal, disabling situations such as cancers, heart attacks and respiratory diseases".

Prof. Akosa noted that the insensitivity of the appropriate authorities was a sign of disrespect to the numerous Ghanaians, who had called for a law to ensure that smoking was totally banned from public places.

He said the developed countries that manufactured cigarettes and developing countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Benin had succeeded in banning smoking from public places and even ensured that warning inscriptions were printed boldly on cigarettes. A stick of cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals which when inhaled could result in cardiovascular diseases; cancer of the kidney, lung, breast, pancreas and bladder and peptic ulcer, bronchitis and emphysema among other diseases.

Prof. Akosa 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 the social vice originated from and had risen in poorer countries where women and young children were the most affected.

In Ghana, a survey conducted by the Health Research Unit (HRU) of the GHS revealed that 45 per cent of smoking took place in the three Northern Regions where poverty was dominant.

"The absence of a legislation to ban smoking of cigarettes in all public places; advertisements of tobacco products and imposition of high taxes on tobacco products is just not doing us any good but rather urging the tobacco manufacturers to penetrate our market." Prof. Akosa hinted that signatures of Ghanaians would be collected from all the 138 districts including churches and other civil society to be presented to the Minister of Health to be forwarded to President John Agyekum Kufuor by the end of February 2007.

Mrs Edith Wellington of the HRU, explained that the survey conducted on the FCTC was to assess Ghana''s readiness for tobacco control measures as evidenced by indicators such as knowledge of health effects of tobacco use; support for implementation of the provisions of the FCTC by key opinion leaders; which included policy makers; media personnel; Parliamentarians and the civil society groups in Greater Accra.

Respondents expressed concern and gave reasons such as its health hazards; effect on the nation''s economy; its effect on non-smokers and the fact that smoking led to the use of hard drugs.

About 94 per cent of the respondents called for a ban on smoking in indoor workplaces; tobacco and cigarette advertisement; use of any tobacco product at social events by sponsors; events sponsored by tobacco companies and give always of cigarette and other tobacco products to the youth.

For most effective strategies to control smoking and the use of tobacco products, respondents called for tax increase on tobacco products; non-sale of cigarette and other tobacco products to children below 18 years; disclosure of ingredients in cigarette on packs and display of large, precise and non-deceptive warning on cigarette packs. Respondents called for a sustained public education on harmful effects as well as on the FCTC and urged Parliamentarians to refuse offers from tobacco companies while the Government provided adequate financial and other resources to support the FCTC.

Ms Sophia Twum-Barimah, Public Affairs Officer of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who gave details of the FCTC, said Ghana was the 39th nation to ratify the Framework developed by W.H.O. She said tobacco related diseases were on the rise in Africa, saying that over four million people worldwide died in 1998 of tobacco related cases.

She noted that if the current trend continued, "it is estimated that by 2030, 10 million people will die from tobacco related diseases with seven million of them coming from developing countries.

Ms Twum-Barimah urged the Government; non-governmental organisations; community groups; health professionals and religious groups to play their role in combating the epidemic of tobacco use. Representatives of the religious groups commended GHS for the tobacco smoking campaign and pledged their support in the fight. 30 Jan. 07


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