The Vision for Alternative Development (VALD GHANA) and its partners have descended heavily on the tobacco industry to pay for the harm they have caused to human lives and the environment.
The tobacco industry imposes continuing irreparable harms on the youth and even future generations by maximizing its economic power to influence governments and tobacco control policies by lobbying, manipulating the media, and discrediting scientific research in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product.
This remark was contained in a statement issued on the occasion of International Youth Day 2022, which seek for Intergenerational solidarity to create a safe and tobacco-free World for All Ages.
This harmful industry knows that an overwhelming majority of smokers begin to smoke while still in their teens and are highly vulnerable to the effects of the powerful addictive nicotine, hence their deliberate trend of strategically recruiting “replacement smokers” so as to continuously stay in business by rebranding tobacco into an attractive, flavored and glamorous product with the introduction of shisha and e-cigarettes.
The statement says although Ghana has come a long way in the fight against tobacco by prohibiting all forms of tobacco advertisements, the passage of the Tobacco Control Measures and the adoption of the Tobacco Control Regulations in 2012 and 2016 respectively; Research by the Ghana Health Service indicates that most of the country’s youth are engaging in e-cigarettes and shisha use.
Revealing that, the rate of smoking shisha and e-cigarettes among young people has shot up to 5.3 percent, higher than the traditional use of tobacco which stands at 2.8 percent.
The Economics of Tobacco Control/Taxation in Ghana” research facilitated by VALD Ghana also revealed that the youth and women especially are now getting hooked on to flavored tobacco/cigarettes and shisha because of its appealing fragrance.
The tobacco industry has through diverse means thwart effective tobacco control measures and has rather caved for themselves, a pleasant and responsible image in the eyes of the populace through their guise of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and philanthropic actives. Meanwhile, the main objective behind this human nature is to increase their standing in these communities and attract new talents.
With its corporate influence on government actors, the profit-driven tobacco industry holds the future of the next generation at a ransom, thus we condemn the actions of the industry and those representing its interests and call for justice.
We demand actions from governments, regulatory bodies, communities, and the tobacco industry; to protect young adults, children and future generations from the enduring addiction deceptively peddled to get them addicted to nicotine and its lifelong struggle with their mental health and well-being.
Tobacco provides no benefit to humankind, instead causes deaths, addiction, and environmental harm.
Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Director-General of the WHO, described tobacco use as “a communicated disease—communicated through marketing”. Explaining that the spread of tobacco use especially among young people and women in developing countries are the latest target of tobacco industry marketing.
Adding that Scrutinizing, countering, and eliminating their activities will decrease the disease burden of tobacco use.
It is time for stringent legislation and actions to hold the tobacco industry responsible for the harm they cause to health, the economy, and the environment. Tobacco taxation has been recommended by WHO as an effective means to curb consumption, especially among the youth, improve health outcomes and provide sustainable revenue for governments’ health financing.
Hence, there is a need for Ghana like other countries like Kenya, Gambia etc. to change the current tax regime from the ad valorem to a mixture of ad valorem and specific excise taxation on tobacco.
A company that kills 8 million people a year, leaving many with chronic conditions has no social value.
VALD Ghana and its partners in health wish to reiterate that, the so-called CSR activities such as Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) is just a false notion to divert attention from the actual harm their products pose. Their CSR initiatives are of no good as their products.
The irreconcilable fundamental conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health including the health of future generations can only be decided by policies adopted in this generation.
A sustainable future devoid of the tobacco industry and its interference is all we seek; the time to make them pay for the harm they cause to human lives and the environment is now.