Every year the world observes World No Tobacco Day on May 31.The day serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about the harmful and deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure and to discourage the use of tobacco in any form.
The theme for this year’s World No Tobacco Day 2020 is “Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use” The campaign seeks to debunk myths and expose devious tactics employed by the tobacco industry and their allies. It also aimed at providing young people with the knowledge required to easily detect industry manipulation and equip them with the tools to rebuff such tactics, thereby empowering young people to stand up against them.
Despite being a party to the World Health Organization Framework on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and effectively passing and adopting a tobacco control law within the Public Health Act, 2012 and Tobacco Control Regulations, 2016 (L.I. 2247), Ghana is yet to effectively implement and enforce provisions of the laws that protects and expose children and the youth from cigarettes and other forms of tobacco products such as shisha/waterpipe etc.
It was evident when the Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) in 2016, together with 10 other civil society organizations in Africa undertook a research dubbed, “sale of single stick cigarette in Africa”, that single sticks are readily available, sold and consumed by children, including selling of cigarettes to and by minors. Exacerbating the problem is tobacco advertising that is usually present where single sticks are sold given the absence of comprehensive tobacco advertising bans (ATCA).
Again findings from the Tobacco Atlas revealed that more than 5,000 children within the ages of 10-14 years continue to use tobacco in Ghana.
Furthermore the Ghana 2017 Global Youth Tobacco Survey in Junior High Schools shows that 8.9% of boys and 8.2% of girls currently use any form of tobacco products. 7.0% of boys and 5.3% of girls currently smoke tobacco, 0.4% of boys and 1.7% of girls currently smoke shisha. This situation is very scary and unfortunate especially because, since 2012 Ghana passed its tobacco control law to protect children from exposure to tobacco.
The average shisha-smoking session lasts an hour equivalent smoking to 100-200 sticks of cigarettes, but the youth are oblivious of the harmful and its deadly effects.
We can’t comprehend why a known killer product is sold so cheaply on the Ghanaian and many African markets is not attracting tax increment to make them expensive and unattractive to the poor and young people who are the primary target. Is government happy about the cost of a stick of cigarette costing only 0.15 pesewas (USD0.04) while a pack of 10 sticks costing GHS1.50p (USD0.30). Meanwhile elsewhere, like New Zealand and other developed countries, cigarette costs the smoker up to USD20 per pack, making them very expensive and protecting children and people with low income levels. Research shows that tax increment on tobacco products discourages smoking and initiation especially among the youth thereby reducing the burden of diseases such as cancers, heart and lung diseases and poverty levels.
Despite persistent public education campaigns, tobacco use including shisha smoking is still the leading cause of preventable diseases and premature death from cardiovascular, lung and respiratory diseases. The upsurge in consumption of tobacco and tobacco products is not only hazardous to the well-being of the consumers and non-consumers, but also puts a heavy financial and social burden on the economic health of Ghanaians.
It is important for governments and policy makers to know that, the tobacco industry has clearly stated that they have found new market in Africa to sell their deadly products. According to British American Tobacco (BAT) Chairman Barry Bramley “Africa is also projected to continue growing…BAT is strongly placed to take advantage of the growth in these markets.”
Troubling is the advent of covid-19 and evidence confirms that tobacco smoking increases the risk of contracting the virus due to the destruction it has on health of human immune system including being one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases etc. and non-communicable diseases.
Despite evidences about ill connection between covid-19 and tobacco, the tobacco industry continues to market its products and even threatens action against countries that have placed a ban on cigarettes.
In conclusion, the Vision for Alternative Development by this press release strongly recommends the following:
- ban shisha in Ghana, apart of the harm, its sales contradicts the provisions of the tobacco control measures
- effectively implement and enforce the provisions of the tobacco control measures that protects children from exposure and use of cigarettes
- increase taxes on tobacco and monitor its implementation to ensure its reflects the prices in the markets
- enforce the sale of single sticks of cigarettes products and ban sale of 10 sticks of cigarettes (10 sticks of cigarette pack cost only Ghs 1,50p)
- government must be wary of the tobacco industry attempts to hypocritically support governments and academic and research institutions
- continue to protect public health policies from tobacco industry interferences
- collaboration with civil society organizations and government should be strengthened in order to improve surveillance, reporting and enforcement mechanisms