The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) says there is no safe form of tobacco as the product, in whatever formula, is still deadly and discouraged its intake or exposure to the smoke.
Dr Olivia Agyekumwaa Boateng, the Head of Tobacco and Substance Abuse Department of the FDA, said tobacco was known to kill half of its users and smokers had a higher risk of severe disease and death if infected with the coronavirus.
She said going forward, the FDA would, among other regulations, adopt plain packaging of tobacco products as a measure to reduce its attractiveness and restrict its advertisement.
Dr Boateng said this at a webinar meeting in Accra, organised by the FDA in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS).
It was in commemoration of the annual ‘World No Tobacco Day’ with this year’s theme being: “Protecting Youth from Industry Manipulation and Preventing Them from Tobacco and Nicotine Use”.
She said the FDA would also ensure strict enforcement of regulations concerning directions of tobacco in entertainment media and pledged its commitment to creating a tobacco-free society.
It would continually enforce the Tobacco laws, engage in public education and sensitisation in the media and communities and impose fines and penalties to discourage violations.
The FDA would also enhance its unannounced visits and surveillance, ensure prompt responses to complains, call for public support and enforcement, engage with interest groups, and strengthen collaboration with partner government agencies and organisations.
Dr Boateng said globally, tobacco was known to kill more than eight million people every year, among which more than seven million of the deaths were from direct tobacco use and approximately 1.2 million as a result of second-hand smoke exposure to non-smokers.
She said the annual campaign was an opportunity to raise awareness on the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure.
It is to discourage usage of these products in any form, advocate for effective policies to save lives while exposing and addressing the strategic aggressive and well-resourced tactics targeted at attracting the youth.
Despite continuous efforts to reduce and subsequently prevent the use of tobacco and its associated ailment, reports from public education had indicated growing incidences of youth involvement in the usage of tobacco and its products, she said.
Dr Boateng said majority of those products used by the youth especially the new trends like Shisha, e-cigarettes, and other nicotine delivery equipment were part of the tobacco industry’s manipulative tactics to attract young people.
She said there were presently over 15,000 flavours of tobacco products, most of which were aimed to attract children and adolescents, through social media influencers and marketing.
Notwithstanding these challenges Ghana had made strides in her regulatory interventions like the comprehensive smoke-free policies in the Public Health Act 2012, (Act 851) part Six, and the Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (LI. 2247), as well as the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control being implemented by the FDA to reduce tobacco related illnesses and deaths.
She said studies by public health experts convened by the WHO on April 29, 2020, found that smokers were more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers.
Also, tobacco use was a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular, cancer, respiratory and diabetes, which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illnesses when affected by COVID-19, she said.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the Organisation was launching a nationwide counter-marketing campaign against the tobacco industry’s aggressive tactics to attract a new generation of customers.
Dr Moeti called for the support of all to challenge the marketing of tobacco products.