A research conducted by Dr Arti Singh, a Faculty Member, School of Public Health, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), has revealed that one in every five cigarettes is illicit in Ghana.
The research findings from the illicit tobacco trade study under the Tobacco Control Capacity Programme (TCCP), indicated that in Ghana, sale of single sticks was highly rampant (100 percent of the retailors interviewed sell loose cigarettes).
Dr Singh, who is also a research fellow of TCCP, presented the findings of the study at a TCCP Dissemination and Engagement Meeting in Accra.
The Tobacco control programme is funded by the grant from Research Councils UK, as part of the Global Challenges Research Fund began in 2018.
Led by Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Edinburgh and involves academics in six UK Universities and eight research organizations in Africa and South Asia, including the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in The Gambia.
The programme is scheduled to end in December 2021.
The aim of the TCCP is to improve research capacity in low and middle-income countries such as Ghana, to conduct high quality studies that will generate evidence on how to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by tobacco use, and to advance key development priorities.
The TCCP-Ghana till date has conducted two major research areas; smoke-free policy and illicit tobacco trade under the leadership of Prof Ellis Owusu-Dabo, Pro-Vice Chancellor, KNUST and the Principal Investigator for the TCCP in Ghana.
Dr Singh said the study revealed that close to half of illicit tobacco products originated from Togo (Aflao in the Volta Region having over 90 per cent of the packs being illicit).
She said the study showed that out of 384 retailers, close to half of them were not aware of illicit tobacco and a third not aware of tobacco control laws on illicit products.
She noted that some of the facilitating factors for illicit tobacco trade in Ghana were attributed to the lack of data, presence of porous borders and low awareness of stakeholders.
Dr Singh said stakeholders also recommend the need for a country-specific tracking and tracing system, strengthening of borders and more research studies in this area.
The key recommendation that the TCCP researchers indicated was that larger studies should be conducted on the extent of illicit tobacco in Ghana.
The study also recommended the need for a country-specific tracking and tracing system; and the enforcement of law on the sale of single sticks and the implementation and enforcement of the illicit tobacco protocol.
It suggested educational campaigns and targeted media to provide information to retailors on tobacco control laws and illicit tobacco products (CSOs).
It recommended the development of advocacy messages on the health hazards of tobacco especially to youth groups via civil society organisation.
Prof Owusu-Dabo said Ghana had smoking prevalence of five to eight per cent with gender diversity; adding that smoking prevalence was higher in the Northern Region and deprived zones of society.
He said tobacco was responsible for three per cent of the deaths related to non-communicable diseases in Ghana (heart diseases and respiratory tract cancers).
He said Ghana applies the highest tobacco taxation rates in the ECOWAS region but prices of cigarettes remained widely reasonable.
Prof Bauld in a virtual presentation said tobacco use was the leading cause of preventive death in the world; declaring that by 2030, more than 80 per cent of the world’s tobacco-related deaths would occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Dr Olivia Agyekumwaa Boateng, Head of Tobacco and Substances Abuse Department, Food and Drugs Authority, said the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Protocol was a significant milestone in the history of tobacco control.
She said Ghana was in the process of completing the ratification of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
She said within the protocol were recommendations for countries to added to their laws to ensure that illicit tobacco trade comes to a halt.