The Ghana Country Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Magda Robalo, Tuesday urged the Ghanaian government to ratify the protocol to eliminate illicit trade in tobacco products.
She also asked the government to take concrete steps to implement its provisions, saying that would help protect the country from the financial, legal, social and health impacts of illicit trade in tobacco products.
Dr Robalo was speaking at a media sensitization forum under the theme “Stop Illicit Trade of Tobacco Products” as part of activities to mark the 2015 World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) which is observed every year on May 31.
Dr Robalo also urged individuals, households and civil society groups to join the WNTD awareness-raising campaign, including using social media to amplify messages and device from governments and the WHO.
“Let us stop illicit trade in tobacco products to reduce tobacco use and ultimately decrease tobacco-related diseases and premature deaths,” she said in a speech read on her behalf by Joana Ansong of the Tobacco Control Focal Point at the WHO Country Office.
She also called on policy-makers to acknowledge the role of illicit trade in tobacco products not only in worsening the global tobacco use epidemic and its health consequences but also for its security implications since proceeds from this trade might be used to finance crimes such as trafficking of humans and arms.
The WHO says tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally and currently responsible for killing 6 million people each year of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke.
In Ghana, 10 percent of the adult population and 4.6 percent of Junior High School students smoke cigarettes.
Dr Faried Kyei, head of the Disease Control and Prevention Department of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), explained that Ghana had taken its fight against illicit trade of tobacco products a notch higher with the adoption of visual warning to sensitize the public on the dangers of tobacco use.
He said creating greater awareness among the youth was the only sure way out to tackle the menace of tobacco consumption.
The Programs Director of the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD), a non-governmental organization (NGO), Labram Musah, called on the Ministry of Finance to monitor the implementation of the 33 percent excise tax increase in tobacco products in Ghana.
Ghana’s effort in tobacco control over the years has yielded positive results but much still needs to be done.
Through administrative directives, Ghana has long banned tobacco advertising, forcing the tobacco industry to use other ways to advertise their products.
Ghana has passed a public service law and completed its legislative Instrument which will soon be sent to parliament.
Among the interventions to address the tobacco use problem in Ghana include intensive public education through the media, textual health warning on cigarette packs and seizures and destruction of illicit tobacco products. Enditem